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Sikh Temples in California accommodate thousands of Dam Evacuees in Yuba City

Oroville Dam is the tallest in US and it is dreaded due to its overflow that has been dampened by heavy rainfall

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Sikh Community, Wikimedia

Washington, Feb 14, 2017: Following the apprehensions of Oroville Dam collapsing, Gurudwaras in California are providing shelter to thousand of evacuees in Yuba City, which is home to the humongous chunk of Indian Americans.

While escaping potential flooding along the Highway 70 corridor south of Oroville, Security guards, teachers, farmers and other members of the Central Valley’s massive Sikh community took shelter into the two-storey Gurdwara Sahib Sikh temple in West Sacramento on late Sunday.

“More than 200 evacuees received toiletries, bedding and tasty vegetarian meals served by the temple’s staff of 19, who worked through the night to house everybody”, temple manager Ranjeet Singh was quoted a saying by the Sacramento Bee.

Oroville Dam is the tallest in US and it is dreaded due to its overflow that has been dampened by heavy rainfall. It’s predicted to collapse.

“People were still arriving after being stuck in traffic for seven hours,” Singh stated, adding that “We have a big facility here. We can accommodate 300 to 400. If anybody needs help, we can provide it. Everybody’s welcome here.”

“Sikh Temples in Sacramento region are open for people evacuated around #OrovilleDam. Am told they have food ready & all in need are welcome,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tweeted.

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It is believed that the West Sacramento temple complex is the largest evacuation shelter in Sacramento and it has accommodated 200,000 people, who have fled the zone situated below Oroville Dam. The Sacramento Sikh Temple in Rio Linda reported accommodating 50 to 60 families which have fled the flood zone.

“We have all races black, white, Asian and Hispanic.

There is no tobacco or alcohol, and all our meals are vegetarian,” stated spokesman Darshan Singh Mundy.

Most of the people camping in the Gurudwara, originally belong to Punjab.

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“The Yuba City-Marysville area is home to more than 40,000 Sikhs”, Mundy stated, “while the greater Sacramento region has roughly 70,000.”

Residents in the River Valley below the Lake Oroville Dam were ordered to evacuate from their homes on Sunday when one of the two damaged spillways emerged in danger of imminent collapse post severe erosion.

– prepared by Sabhyata Badhwar of NewsGram. Twitter: @SabbyDarkhorse

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Seven Decades after Partition: Sikhs in Pakistan Struggle amid Bombings and Violence

Sikhs in Pakistan have been looking to leave Pakistan as their homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam

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Sikhs in pakistan
Types of 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force), now 3 Frontier Force, Pakistan Army. ca. 1905. Wikimedia Commons
  • In today’s period, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities
  • Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty
  • Mr. Singh heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan

Aug 15, 2017: At the age of 11, Radesh Singh’s grandfather left his village in India’s Punjab province to move to Peshawar, which is bordered by Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.

Pakistan wasn’t even a glint in the eye of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the year 1901 when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent and Peshawar held the promise of work and adventure.

It has been 70 years since the partition of India, which divided the subcontinent into majority Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and led to one of the largest migrations in modern history.

Singh’s family have been waging a secessionist uprising in India ever since, demanding unmitigated sovereignty for India’s Punjab state where they command. Singh’s family is neither Hindu nor Muslim but Sikh, a religious minority in both countries. Feeling increasingly less at home on either side of the border, they have been victims of local Taliban violence in the recent years in Muslim Pakistan.

Singh’s grandfather would never return to his village, not even in 1947. Singh stated that poverty kept his grandfather in Peshawar, which was controlled by fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribesmen. He said, “It’s not easy to start over at zero when you have very little,” mentioned BBG Direct.

ALSO READ: 10,000 members of Sikh community in Pakistan lack Education and Health: Sikh Leader 

According to Singh, the enmity in the immediate aftermath of 1947 was slightly lower in the northwest. It was followed by decades of peace. The decision to stay in Pakistan appeared like a reliable option at the time.

The Sikhs had lived harmoniously for centuries alongside their Pashtun Muslim countrymen. Singh explains, Sikhs had a glorious history in the northwest. In the 18th century, they oversaw a dynasty headed by a Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh, whose capital was Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. He rebuilt Peshawar’s infamous Bala Hisar Fort, an imposing walled fortress that some historians assume is as old as the city itself.

In today’s period, easily identifiable because of the colorful turbans and the surname Singh, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities. As indicated by the CIA Factbook, 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are non-Muslims which include Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus.

Singh asserted until 1984 Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs lived unitedly in northwest Pakistan. Their children married and worshipped together. But after the tragic assassination of India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, the entire scene changed consequently.

“They (Hindus) cut all relations with us. They said Pakistani Sikhs are like all Sikhs everywhere. No difference. They said, ‘From now on, we will be separate from you”, Singh recalled.

Today Sikhs in Pakistan are contending with the government for possession of dozens of Sikh temples (Gurdwaras); however, they have succeeded to restore some of the buildings. The Pakistan government took over the buildings after 1947 and allowed the squatters to remain.

Once a vibrant Gurdwara attended by hundreds of Sikhs, it no longer resembled a house of worship but rather a sweeping courtyard. However, it was until now that two families called it the home, said Singh.

Singh who heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan, said young Sikhs have been looking to leave as the homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam.

“They want to go to another country, not to India or Pakistan. But every country eyes them with suspicion.,” he said.

He adds, “Even Indians see his Pakistani passport and question his intentions, suggesting he wants to agitate for Sikh secessionism, the battle that resulted in Indira Gandhi’s death and a dream still held by many Sikhs on both sides of the border.”

According to Singh, Pakistan’s slide into intolerance began when Pakistan’s military dictator Zia-ul Haq set the country on the course of Islamic radicalization in the late 1970s with the former Soviet Union’s invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. Jihad became a rallying cry to defeat the communists in Afghanistan.

Extremism aggravated after the 2001 intrusion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, he proclaimed.

The tribal areas were steadily caught by Taliban and in 2013 several Sikhs were killed, their limbs cut. Singh said the brutality of the killings and the threats sent thousands abandoning Pakistan.

Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty.

“That is why we have a fear in our hearts, that this law can be used against us,” he told.

“In the last nearly 40 years we have been facing the boom, boom (mimicking the sound of explosions) in every city of Pakistan,” said Singh. “In a long time we have not heard any sweet sounds in our Peshawar, but still we love our city.”


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Indian-Americans Slam Singer Mika Singh for saying ‘Humara Pakistan’ in an Independence Day Video

In spite of the controversies, Mika Singh performed in Houston and Chicago

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Mika Singh faces wrath for saying humara Pakistan
Mika Singh faces wrath for saying humara Pakistan. Twitter
  • 15 August ko humara Hindustan azaad hua tha aur 14 ko humara Pakistan, says Mika Singh 
  • He received a lot of criticism for it from Indian- American public, Indian politicians
  • Indian Americans in large numbers strongly criticized the ill-timed video

New Delhi, August 14, 2017: Mika Singh performed in  Houston and Chicago on August 12 and 13 respectively to celebrate Pakistan and India’s Independence Day. He received a lot of criticism for it from Indian- American public, Indian politicians, twitter world and the FIA).

Earlier, the organizers of the show posted a video of Mika talking about his performance in which he said that he’s looking forward to celebrating the Independence Day of India and Pakistan. He said, “15 August ko humara Hindustan azaad hua tha aur 14 ko humara Pakistan,” The 40-year-old singer drew criticism for saying ‘humara Pakistan’  and evoked angry twitter reactions- “Shame on you. Are you celebrating Pakistani Day? Do you know how many of our Army Jawans are being killed by Pakistan?” a user tweeted.

FIA is a non-profit umbrella organization of other Indian associations in the Chicago land and Mid-West area for the Indian community. Iftikaar Shareef, Trustee Chairman FIA said, “We will not tolerate you (Mika Singh) participating in Pakistan’s Independence Day.” He also said that if he’s coming to Chicago he should better be prepared for actions taken by them. As per a collective vote, he said that Mika is not welcome to Chicago if he goes to Houston. Kanti N. Patel, president of FIA said, “We should oppose Mika Singh’s performance as Indians.” They said that they will protest if he performs in Houston for Pakistan’s Independence Day and then comes to Chicago to celebrate Indian Independence Day.

WATCH THE VIDEO: FIA Press Conference Condemning Mika Singh 

The federation includes groups like Indo-American Association of Greater Houston, India Culture Center, India House, Gujarati Samaj of Houston, Graduate Indian Student Organization of the University of Houston and Patanjali Yogpeeth.  “We have a strained relationship (with Pakistan)… If he has any sense of patriotism, he should cancel this concert. Money is not everything in life. Country comes first always,” said Col (rtd) Vipin Kumar, executive director India House Inc who wanted the concert to be canceled.

Amee Patel, president of Gujrat Samaj, Houston, said: “As an organization of Indian-origin (people), we fully stand behind our flag and our other Indian community organizations in protesting against this event and we do not support this event in any fashion.” Swapan Dhairyawan, a community activist and former president of the India Culture Centre, said that it would not have been an issue if the artist was performing for a regular concert. But he emphasized it as a celebration of Pakistan’s Independence Day and saying in his viral video ‘Humara Pakistan’ is unforgivable and unfortunate.

Indian Americans in large numbers strongly criticized the ill-timed video and expressed their anger towards the statement that the show is a joint celebration. They said that the video comes across as a ‘cruel joke’ in the wake of the ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC, resulting in deaths of many innocent civilians and the armed forces personnel.

According to a PTI report, Ramesh Shah, an Indian-American philanthropist said   “Celebrating India’s Independence Day is for those who believe in India and its freedom and democracy…It can never happen with Pakistan, and not when they are sponsoring and supporting Pakistani terrorists on the Indian soil.”

Mika Singh also drew the ire of several political parties. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) Chitrapat Sena Chief Amey Khopkar tweeted, “Mika Singh is doing Hamara Pakistan concert in USA. Open challenge to him, try holding a mic (microphone) in Maharashtra now,” The MNS leader said that he would write to CM Devendra Fadnavis seeking suitable action against the singer for his unpatriotic remarks.

Later, on August 12, MNS staged protests in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, burned the Pakistani flag and effigies of Mika. Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam said, “He should know that the Pakistan which he is praising is our enemy. Pakistan always plans and plots against India and to praise such a country is incorrect.” Nirupam has asked Mika to apologize for his shameful act and to withdraw his statement. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut also spoke on this issue and said that the artists should not compromise on patriotism over commercial benefits.

 ALSO READ: Delhi police arrests singer Mika for assaulting doctor at an event

India and Pakistan are not on good terms and there is a lot of tension between the two countries so this is not a correct time for an Indian artist to perform in Pakistan, celebrating their Independence Day when after the 2016 Uri attack all the Pakistani artists were banned to work in India. Twitter users criticized Mika Singh:


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