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Arun Upadhyay- Indian Hindu Leader- Hosted in Shomron

The US State Department recently joined the latter group by dropping that pejorative and inaccurate phrase, “occupied territories."

Indian Hindu Leader Hosted in Shomron
Indian Hindu Leader Hosted in Shomron.

Dr. Richard Benkin, Chicago

This spring, Arun Upadhyay, International President of Hindu Struggle Committee, realized a long- cherished dream: he visited Israel. While the world marvels at the growing relationship between Israel and India, numerous individuals are making it work at a person-to-person level. Arun, a Hindu activist, has worked on building the India-Israel relationship at the grass roots level for more than a decade—back to a time when the previous Indian government pushed back against our efforts, sent agents to spy on us, and harassed our associates. We were heckled on Indian campuses and threatened,
sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly; and we faced angry protestors who warned that our work represented a conspiracy of “Zionism and Hindutva against Muslims.” Nevertheless, along with our colleague and inspiration, Amitabh Tripathi, and with strong support from the Middle East Forum and Dr. Daniel Pipes we persevered. We persevered because we believed in the natural alliance between Israel and India, and because despite detractors and threats, we kept encountering more and more students and faculty who supported strong relations with Israel.

Moreover, our Asian friends do not buy the false dichotomy between “Israel” and “the West Bank” that we in the West have been fed for decades. Nor do they use the phrase, “occupied territories” because for them, there is but one united Israel. In the West—especially in Europe, the United Nations, and on the left—people try to mask their anti-Israel bias with that false distinction. They ignore the fact that the Arabs were calling for an end to “Israeli occupation” when Jordan occupied the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza. They ignore the fact that the Israelis offered the Arabs their desired Palestinian State, including Jerusalem, only to have it thrown back in their faces. In Asia, the people I encounter are either open in their desire to see Israel eradicated entirely or clear in their support for the Jewish State. Significantly, the US State Department recently joined the latter group by dropping that pejorative and inaccurate phrase, “occupied territories.”. They are not occupied but only those lands that Arab armies controlled after their combined forces failed to destroy the newly born State of Israel in 1948. During hours of pre-trip discussions, as well as more than a decade of work with me, Arun never parsed an old and new city of Jerusalem or called Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria “settlements.” So when Israeli activist and Shomron Regional Council spokesman, David Ha-ivri invited Arun to visit Ariel, Homesh, and the Council; it was no different than an invitation to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Representational image.
Representational image.

Arun touched down at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport just after the Jewish festival of Passover and the next morning (Sunday, April 8), made the 25 mile (40 kilometer) trip east to Barkan, a town of less than 2000 in northern Samaria. Ha-ivri greeted him with three days of “VIP treatment.” It began with a trip to Jerusalem, less than 25 miles south of Barkan, that included a tour of the Temple Mount’s ancient subterranean tunnels; and by the end of the trip, this young Hindu was quoting Biblical verses to support a Jewish homeland throughout the entire land: “Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria” (Jeramiah 31:5),

After a day-long educational tour and greeting in Shomron, the fruits of which Arun expects to share with other Indians, Ha’ivri arranged a full day of “high profile political and academic meetings” that he said represented a “Golden Age in Israel-India relations.” Arun discussed academic, agricultural, and commercial development with Shomron Regional Council head, Yossi Dagan, as well as ways to expand India-Israel relations. The first concrete result of those talks could very well secure Israel’s place in the hearts of Hindus. Arun came determined to enlist Israeli technology for the massive cleanup project of the heavily polluted Ganges River. The “Ganga” is holy to the world’s billion plus Hindus and as central to their religious narrative as the Jordan River is for Jews and Christians. There are purification rites that involve bathing in the Ganges. Right now, it’s not so bad the closer you get to the glacial source in the Himalayas (which is where I bathed) but difficult throughout much of the river’s path. Good news: within days of these talks, the process began. India’s National Mission for Clean Ganga and Israel’s Ariel University began active discussions about a cooperative project. While these talks continue, another trip to Israel involving Hindus from India, as well as Pashtuns, Baloch and Sindhi, is being prepared.

Ha’ivri also proposed a sister city relationship, and I will be following up with Arun in the coming months. Shortly after hosting Arun, Ha’ivri brought community leaders from Zambia and Kenya, and leaders of First Nations peoples to Shomron, debunking two false accusations at once: that Israel is a western, colonial outpost, hostile to peoples of color; and that Judea and Samaria are any less Israeli than Tel Aviv.

Along with Amitabh Tripathi and me, Arun Upadhyay has been a leader in building strong pro-Israel coalitions, especially on Indian college campuses. He has worked within Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and closely with Anant Hegde, Modi’s Union Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. Most recently, he has been organizing Indians to actively combat the ongoing persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh that threatens their very existence and is described in my book, A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: the Murder of Bangladesh’s Hindus.

1. Determine if Sindhi are coming on the trip.

Dr. Benkin has been tirelessly working to highlight the human rights violation of Hindus in Bangladesh.

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National Capital Delhi Makes a Gradual Comeback

The city of Delhi has slowly and gradually reopened

Shutters are lifted and shops spruced up as Delhi's markets open after two months as lockdown restrictions are eased. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

Signs are being spruced up and prayers performed as shops in the Indian capital open their shutters after two months with the gradual easing of a stringent lockdown.

Markets were allowed to reopen recently after the government signaled economic activity must resume, even as the fight against the COVID -19 pandemic continues. Traffic is humming on once-deserted streets as buses and auto rickshaws have been given the go-ahead to operate.

However, people in the city of nearly 20 million — one of the worst-hit in the country — remain hesitant about venturing out as cases of coronavirus touched record highs in recent days.

Shop owners, hoping to slowly emerge from the economic pain imposed by a weekslong shutdown, have instituted new rules to cope with the pandemic.

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Though markets are open, they are seeing few customers as people remain wary amid the COVID 19 pandemic. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

“We’ve restricted it to three people at a time for browsing, and then we have new checks and measures in place where we first check the person’s temperature, we give them hand sanitizer and we have started giving everyone a pair of gloves as well,” said Rajni Malhotra, owner of Bahrisons Booksellers, a 65-year-old landmark in one of the city’s most iconic markets.

The city is only partially open — shopping malls, restaurants, schools and colleges still remain closed and offices can only have limited staff.  Even in markets that have opened, only half the shops open every day to avoid crowding. Delhi accounts for about 10% of India’s infections.

“We have a twofold challenge — to reduce the transmission rate of the disease, and to increase public activity gradually,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the country two weeks ago. “Coronavirus is going to be part of our lives for a long time. But we can’t let our lives revolve around it,” he said.

Shop owners even sanitize customers’ purchases to reassure people still wary of entering markets. Among those that sold some goods is a store that sells kitchen equipment — in Delhi, like much of the world, cooking and baking have been therapy for some of those confined indoors.

A customer turns up to buy baking tins — in Delhi, like much of the world, cooking and baking has been a therapy for people confined indoors. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

However, a sense of unease remains as once-buzzing markets see only a sprinkling of customers, who mostly visit shops selling groceries and other essentials.

“There is this feeling that complete your work fast and then return home,” said Aparajita Pant, a city resident who had come to buy food for her pets.

“Earlier one would like to linger around, there are so many interesting shops here but as of now, there is that cautious approach, at least in me,” she said.

That is not good news for some shop owners. Not a single person had walked into Leena Mehra’s shop selling handicrafts and silver jewelry during the first two days.

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Most customers head to shops selling essentials like groceries and medicines. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

“It’s depressing. We have to open the shop, we don’t have any choice,” she said.

“We know it is difficult for us to sell this product to the consumer because right now the mindset of the people is not at all in this direction, but we will try,” she said.

The pandemic has left its mark on a city whose love for shopping and being well turned out made it a retailers’ paradise.

“One would take more efforts to get maybe a little better dressed, but now you come here, avoid jewelry, avoid wearing even a watch, I am not even wearing my earrings,” Pant said ruefully.

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Shops display signs asking people to wear masks and take precautions as new rules are put in place to cope with the COVID 19 pandemic. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

Even budget accessories and clothes being sold from small stalls tucked in the market’s narrow lanes have few takers. That is disappointing for low-income workers who say they desperately need to start earning again.

“Everybody needs money. If customers don’t come and this atmosphere persists, it will not be easy to face the problem created by this pandemic,” said a despondent Lucky Arya, as he helped set up a stall to sell summer clothes.

The wait for customers is also long for auto rickshaw drivers waiting on sidewalks.

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Auto rickshaw drivers don’t see too many customers as most people still hesitate to venture outside. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)
 A once-familiar sight as they skillfully negotiated their way through Delhi’s often chaotic traffic, they too have been scarred by the pandemic because of new rules allowing only one passenger instead of the customary two to ensure social distancing.

Also Read: COVID-19 Makes it Difficult to Manage Cancer Care: Oncologist

Mohammad Parvez Khan decided to brave the city’s sizzling summer temperatures to ply his auto rickshaw even during Ramadan because his savings were running out.

“Only we know how we passed these last two months,” he said.

“Every day, when I fasted, I prayed that let the coronavirus go quickly, and may everything come back to how it used to be,” he said. (VOA)

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Indian Tinder Users Make International Connections During Lockdown

Indian Tinder users match most in USA, UK, Australia

Dating app Tinder launched a new feature of matching beyond geographical locations. Wikimedia Commons

Newly equipped with the option of matching with potential dates beyond geographical boundaries, the users of Tinder are making international connections during the lockdown. The global dating app features connections across the globe with the top countries being the United States of America, United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Australia.

Called Tinder Passport, available for free while the world stays at home, the feature allows users to navigate between their current location and new destinations. Members can search by city or drop a pin on the map and can begin liking, matching, and chatting with users in a destination of their choice.

tinder dating
The users of Tinder are making international connections during the lockdown. Pixabay

“By looking at data from March to April, we learned which cities and countries members are virtually traveling to, and which cities are frequently interacting with each other. The majority of Tinder members are using the feature to change location within the country, with Delhi-Mumbai and Mumbai-Delhi as the top two cities Passporting to each other,” Tinder said.

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Tinder’s resident psychologist Sonali Gupta thinks it is very telling that majority location change is between members within India.

“One of the reasons could be that while there is a global pandemic world over, what’s different is how countries are dealing with it. When people are reaching out to other people in Indian cities, they could possibly feel that their context and personal reality would be better understood by other Indians. This could be a reflection of realistic expectations – as people see that international travel is unlikely and they stand a greater chance of meeting someone who is based within the country.” (IANS)

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88% Indian Professionals Believe Having Right Connections Important for Success: LinkedIn

88% Indians believe right connections key to career growth: LinkedIn

Members of the professional network in India living in metro cities are 1.76x more likely to have a stronger network than those living in non-metro areas, showed the findings which are part of LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2020 report. Pixabay

About 88 per cent of Indian professionals believe that having the right connections is important to get ahead in life, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn said on Wednesday.

Members of the professional network in India living in metro cities are 1.76x more likely to have a stronger network than those living in non-metro areas, showed the findings which are part of LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2020 report.

The results showed that Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi NCR are the top three regions with people with stronger networks, with members in Bengaluru leading the national average.

Members who attend a top university are 1.53x more likely to have a stronger network than those who did not.

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Ironically, the results also showed that only 13 per cent of Indian professionals are looking for networking opportunities.

This vast difference between awareness and action suggests that while young professionals in India aspire for stronger networks, they lack necessary direction and guidance to build these networks.

About 88 per cent of Indian professionals believe that having the right connections is important to get ahead in life, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn said. Pixabay

This barrier is visible across Asia Pacific, with a majority of respondents (51 per cent) believing that a lack of networks is a difficult barrier to overcome and this is mainly because they lack the confidence and guidance on how to go about building a network.

“It is important for our members to know that they are not alone in these times of social distancing. By staying connected virtually, professionals can help each other seek new opportunities, connections, and navigate challenges together,” Ashutosh Gupta, India Country Manager, LinkedIn, said in a statement.

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“It is our constant endeavour to ensure that people with equal talent have equal access to opportunities, and we are seeing the community come together to give help and get help like never before,” Gupta said.

The report, based on responses from more than 30,000 participants, suggests that networking and mentorship are among the top most opportunities sought after by Indian professionals. (IANS)