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Upset Hindu Community urges Online Giant Alibaba to Withdraw Yoga Mats with Hindu Deity Images, calls it Offensive and Indecorous

Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged Alibaba group to formally apologise

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Chinese Online Giant Alibaba, Wikimedia

Nov 23, 2016: Angry Hindus are forcing the Alibaba group for the withdrawal of yoga mats with images of Hindu deities printed on them, calling it offensive and indecorous.

Renowned Hindu statesman Rajan Zed in a statement in Nevada, said that Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesha, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva are highly respected in Hinduism and are preached in temples, shrines and in contrast to yoga mats are not used to sit on or rest any sweaty body parts on. Improper use of Hindu deities for commercial or other agenda is not appreciated because it hurt the devotees, mentioned Meri News.

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Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged Alibaba group to formally apologise.

Hinduism being the oldest and the largest religion with about 1 billion followers and a rich philosophy should not be considered inane. Emblems representing religions should not be misused, said zed.

Inaugurated in 1999, the Alibaba group generated USD 17.8 billion of GMV in the Global Shopping Festival on… Click To Tweet

According to the Meri News report, Zed added that such belittling of Hindu figures was disturbing to Hindus worldwide. Free artistic expression and speech are supported by Hindus as much as anybody else but their faith is something spiritual and attempts at disparaging the religion hurt the preachers, Zed said.

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Inaugurated in 1999, the Alibaba group generated USD 17.8 billion of GMV in the Global Shopping Festival on November 11. It strives “to make it easy to do business everywhere” and its vision is to be “a company that lasts at least 102 years”. A former English teacher from Hangzhou, Jack Yun MA is the Executive Chairman. It has divisions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, USA, UK, Italy and India.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited has also cleared its stance on the issue.

“Alibaba’s marketplaces forbid the listing or sale of any ethically, racially or religiously offensive items, which is clearly mentioned in our marketplaces’ rules. We have been screening the product listings from third-party sellers to remove improper listings as to ensure compliance with our marketplace rules. We will continue to improve our marketplace rules and screening technology, and look forward to working with different organisations to ensure that our marketplaces provide the optimal environment for sellers and buyers worldwide” said an official spokesperson in a clarification issued by the Chinese e-commerce firm in an email sent to merinews.com

-prepared by Shivam Thaker of NewsGram. Twitter: @Shivam_Thaker

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Forced Conversion of Hindus in Umerkot and Tharparkar Districts

The Hindu girls and women are constantly under threat from the Muslims

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Forced Conversion
Young Hindu girls and women are at great risk of forced religious conversions in Sindh province of Pakistan. Wikimedia
  • Thousands of young girls and women have been victims of forced conversion in Umerkot and Tharparkar districts
  • Forced conversions and Muslim men eloping with underage girls are frequent in the area
  • Rising fundamentalism in the region has led to such a situation

July 26, 2017: Many believe that religious identity is one of the strongest identity to categorize an individual. It strongly reflects one’s background and growing up. Hence, it is an aspect of life that most people hold dear to them. But forced conversion, a violation of basic human rights, is changing the person’s identity at their very core.

In the Umerkot and Tharparkar districts of Sindh province, Pakistan, there have been multiple incidents of forced conversion. Young Hindu girls and women have been forcibly converted to Islam. Many young girls have to give in to the impositions of the older Muslim men.

Particularly those girls belong to scheduled castes have been the victims. Recently, Ravita Meghwar’s case has caused the issue to come under the spotlight. Ravita, a 16-year-old girl, was abducted by a group of men who belong to an influential Muslim community in Tharparkar district. Pir Ayub Jan forcibly converted Ravita and married her off to one of the kidnappers.

This was the story that Ravita’s parents narrated. However, Ravita herself denied any such claims by her parents and told the court that it was her decision to run off. She made her decision of staying with her husband clear to the court.

Such stories have been emerging time and again in the Umerkot and Tharparkar districts, where a large number of Hindus reside. In fact, Tharparkar district’s population is 50% Hindu.

Historically, things have drastically changed today. The Hindu and Muslim community in Umerkot and especially Tharparkar district co-existed peacefully. The marriage between a Muslim man and Hindu woman was very acceptable among the community. But now, Tharparkar is like any other part of Pakistan that has become divided along religious lines.

Men armed with guns abducted their daughters, Samjoo and Sonari, in the midnight of 15th January… Click To Tweet

In November 2016, the Sindh Assembly had passed a bill against the practice of forced conversion. However, when some religious organizations threatened agitation and instability if the bill was to pass, the governor’s signature never made it to the proposed bill. Now with increasing cases of conversion, the urgency of the bill is in demand again. But to what extent it will be successfully passed remains to be seen.

Dawn reports that the Samaro tehsil’s Pir Ayub Jan Madrassah is responsible for the conversion of thousands of young girls and women. The Pir Ayub Jan’s younger brother proudly tells his tales of conversion but maintains that none of them have been forced.

Pir Ayub Jan is reportedly gathering support for a movement against the bill in Karachi. Simultaneously, reports have come to highlight the forced conversion of Hindus in the Southern Sindh region. The Sarhandi Shrine is a famous spot for mass conversions.

An activist, part of the local human rights organization, revealed to Dawn, “At least 25 conversions of young Hindu girls and women take place every month in Umerkot’s Kunri and Samaro talukas alone.”

Other activists have exposed that the deprived region is a miserable location for scheduled castes who “are powerless” in front of everyone. Many cases are often not even reported to the media. While mainstream media of the country reports that only 13 Hindus in Samaro district were converted from 2015-2016, the locals of the area say the numbers are much higher.

Dawn reported the story of Shiv Dhan and Mani. Men armed with guns abducted their daughters, Samjoo and Sonari, in the midnight of 15th January 2016. One of the men who went on to marry Sonari was the son of a rich landlord. In this case, too, Sonari claimed she willingly married the person while her parents refute such claims. They still haven’t got their daughter back. The parents also sat for protest but nothing was achieved. Their younger daughter, Samjoo, is back with them but they have not seen or spoken to Sonari since her abduction.

The other case of a Hindu man marrying a Muslim girl is very few. But that did not turn out well for the couple. The Hindu man, hailing from Umerkot district, worked in Karachi where he met a Pakhtun girl. The man changed his religion to Islam and brought the girl to his native place where they married. When the family of the girl found out, they paid a visit to the guy’s family and abducted the women of his family. The story ended with the women returning to their respective homes. The police managed to find the women and rescue them, and the Pakkhtun girl was returned to her family.

Forced Conversion
In the Northern and Central Sindh, rich and upper-class Hindus reside, however, in agrarian Hindu communities reside in the Southern Sindh. Wikimedia

If we closely inspect the Sindh region, the demographic divide is a major factor to any socio-religious issue. The Northern Sindh and the Central Sindh is where most of the rich and upper-class Hindus reside. Here, they have intense protection from the police and politics.

But Southern Sindh is where most Hindus of the entire Pakistan reside. They are mostly employed in the agricultural sector. This is the region where education and employment are often lacking for the Hindu communities. The Hindu girls and women are constantly under threat from the Muslims.

Human rights activists and campaigners in the region have highlighted many incidents where old Muslim men promise a life of luxury and leisure for young Hindu women. Although convincing is not a crime, but when it is done to young and underage girls it becomes a heinous crime. Minors’ consent does not account for a legal marriage.

Patron in Chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council Dr. Ramesh Vankwani spoke to Dawn, “There is not even one case in which anyone has willingly converted. These men, who are often already married, kidnap the girls, keep them in their custody for 15 days, rape them, and through threats and intimidation, make the girls say they converted willingly”

These girls, once targetted, have little to no chance of escaping the situation. If she rejects the offer, she is at risk along with all her family members. Giving in to the offer means a forever goodbye to the family.

It has been strange that in a place where once two religions coexisted peacefully, such cases are on the rise. Dawn has remarkably identified the rising fundamentalism as a critical reason. Rising fundamentalism is leading to such rising cases.

Religious conversion is considered an important feature of religious fundamentalism. Mohammad Yaqoob, who is the head of Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia in Umerkot and Tharparkar districts, is also a head of the Madrassah that is trying to establish New Islamabad. He stated that families who come for the conversion are often given what they asked. Yaqoob also refused to speak against Pir Ayub Jan Sarhandi. He also estimated that in the last 15 years, more than 9,000 conversions were carried out in the Madrassah.

ALSO READ: Pakistan Needs to End Sindhi Exploitation: Resolution by World Sindhi Congress

Lastly, few Hindus actually choose conversion. But it is not because of their allegiance to Shariah or Islam, it is their survival strategy. Poor Hindus, when converting to Islam, become beneficiaries of the Madrassah’s welfare and charity.

The rise of fundamentalism in the region has become increasingly evident. While the government ‘lacks money’ for education and infrastructure, the establishment of new Madrassahs has been easily funded.

The solution to the problem is not that simple either. Hindus can be at under immense threat of a social conflict breaks out. But forced conversions, a major violation of the human right, deserves focus from international human rights groups.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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