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BenarNews (published from Indonesia) has filed this story.
Saifuddin Ahmed, a Bengali Muslim who lives in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, is eagerly waiting for results of just-concluded state assembly elections to be announced on May 19.
Ahmed’s father migrated to India from the former East Pakistan – later Bangladesh – in the 1950s, but he says he fears persecution, or even deportation, if the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) comes to power in Assam, which borders Bangladesh.
“I was born here [in India] and have lived here all my life. I am an Indian citizen. But still, I am referred to as a Bangladeshi,” Ahmed, 53, told BenarNews from his village in Kokrajhar district, some 220 km (136.7 miles) from the state capital Guwahati.
“If the BJP comes to power in Assam, I am afraid people like me will have no status in India. We might even be kicked out of the country. Who will stop them?” said Ahmed, one of about 2 million Muslim immigrants living in Assam since before the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, and who voted in statewide polls that concluded on Monday.
Ahmed’s fear is not entirely unfounded.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP has vowed to disenfranchise Assam’s Muslim immigrants as it looks to form its first government in the state. At 34 percent, Assam boasts the second highest number of Muslims among India’s states.
According to a 1998 report by the governor of Assam, the state’s Muslim population grew by 77 percent compared with the national average of 55 percent between 1971 and 1991, indicating large- scale cross-border migration.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, a campaign manager for the BJP, said recently that if his party were elected, it would bar Bangladeshi-origin Muslims, who entered India between 1951 and 1971, from voting, adding that they could stay but would have to re-apply for citizenship.
“There are about 2 million immigrants [who came before 1971] and their descendants. Let them grow economically and educationally. But their status should be [as] refugee[s] and, on the basis of individual applications, if someone becomes an Indian citizen, that’s a different issue,” Sarma told Reuters.
Sarma said his party would deport undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants, a large but unknown number of whom has settled in Assam and West Bengal and who arrived in India post-1971.
Besides Assam, where phased polling ended this week, voting will continue over several rounds in West Bengal – another state on the border with Bangladesh – on April 17, 21, 25, 30 and May 5. Voting is also set to continue in three other south Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry – before official results are declared on May 19.
The party that leads India’s ruling coalition is trying to win state assembly majorities in Assam, which is controlled by the Congress party, and West Bengal, which is led by the All India Trinamool Congress party.
The BJP’s polarizing election campaign, according to critics, was an attempt to woo the states’ Hindu voters, who have long complained of being robbed of jobs due to the influx of Bangladeshi immigrants.
“[BJP’s anti-immigrant campaign is] not surprising. Though the issue of illegal immigrants is a problem, it can be addressed politically with due processes. Their campaign is nothing but a form a polarization,” New Delhi-based political commentator Rupesh Verma told BenarNews.
“The BJP’s idea of India as a Hindu nationalist state is clear. Minority-related issues do not go down well with them. They have been playing the communal card for a long time,” he said, adding that Modi’s plan risked re-igniting communal tensions between officially secular India’s nearly 1.3 billion-strong Hindu population and 172 million Muslims.
Hindus welcome, not Muslims
The fact that the BJP last year announced that it would welcome and offer citizenship to Hindu immigrants from mainly Muslim Bangladesh and Pakistan, but “wants to alienate Muslim immigrants” does not sit well with Sadiq, an immigrant living in West Bengal since 1968.
Refusing to have his last name published for fear of repercussions, Sadiq, a Kolkata resident, said although he was a voting citizen of India, “several” of his relatives had crossed into India from Bangladesh illegally after 1971.
“My relatives, who came to India in search of better opportunities, have no rights. They live in constant fear of being arrested or thrown out at any time. But the Hindus coming in from across the border are being welcomed with open arms. How does the Indian constitution justify this religious discrimination?” Sadiq told BenarNews.
But the BJP’s campaign was mere “pre-electoral mobilization,” said analysts, who cast doubt on whether the party would follow this up with a full-scale drive to expel Muslim immigrants.
“You don’t have a state that has the capacity, the instruments and the institutions to do anything about this [drive out Muslim immigrants],” Reuters quoted Ajai Sahni, of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, as saying.
Political commentator Dushyant Nagar said the BJP’s campaign in Assam and West Bengal was an extension of its right-wing ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which has long opposed the influx of Muslim immigrants.
“[The RSS] has always been against it. Since most Bangladeshi immigrants are Muslims, the BJP wants to polarize the votes. But this does not seem to give it the desired advantage, [as] not all Hindus are voting for the BJP,” Nagar told BenarNews. (Published with permission from BenarNews, Indonesia)
The Centre will launch a pilot project on the use of indigenously manufactured drones for delivering medicines in the undulating landscape of Jammu and surrounding areas from Saturday with a focus on vaccines delivery initially. "This is going to be a pilot project for the area. The drone is developed and manufactured entirely by our scientists," Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh told mediapersons. Singh said he himself will be launching the project at Jammu.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a constituent of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an autonomous Society that is headed by the Prime Minister. For now, the delivery would be limited to Covid vaccines and once successful, it would be expanded to be used for regular delivery of medicines in the remote, hilly areas.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). | Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
Jammu and surrounding areas are sensitive in terms of the strategic importance. Some months ago, there was an attack on an Army installation using drones. Will the 'drones for vaccines' be permitted in such a case? Allaying fears, a top official from the Ministry of S&T said, "The drones would be deployed by authorised agencies such as hospitals, not anybody can use it, nor would any random person be permitted to use it."
NAL has called the drone as 'Octacopter' and it can fly at an operational altitude of 500 m AGL and at maximum flying speed of 36 kmph. It can be used for a variety of BVLOS applications for last mile delivery like medicines, vaccines, food, postal packets, Human organs (such as heart for heart transplantation) etc. NAL Octacopter is integrated with a powerful on-board embedded computer and latest generation sensors for versatile applications like agricultural pesticide spraying, crop monitoring, mining survey, magnetic geo survey mapping etc., S&T officials had said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Jammu, Vaccines, Medicines, Deliver, Drones, Centre
Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan shares how he feels when people compare him with his father Amitabh Bachchan on the singing reality show 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa'. He also requests contestant Rajshree Bag to sing a track 'Bahon Mein Chale Aao' featuring his mother Jaya Bachchan.
Abhishek said after looking at the performance of Rajshree, who is often compared with Lata Mangeshkar on the show, that she reminds him of being compared with his father. "Rajshree, whenever I have got the chance to watch the show, I've seen people compare you to Lata didi. It actually reminded me about how people compare me with my father and ask me how I feel about it."
According to him Amitabh Bachchan is a great actor in the industry and this is what he says to everyone making these comparisons. "My answer to them is that there's no greater actor in this film industry than Amitabh Bachchan and if I'm being compared to him, I am sure I must have done something good."
"Similarly, your voice has a different kind of magic like Lata ji and that's why people are comparing your voice with her. I feel you should always take this as a compliment," he concluded. 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' airs on Saturday and Sunday on Zee TV. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Rajshree Bag
Winters in India have always beckoned for that hot, steaming bowl of tomato and pepper rasam or the mellow, millet based Raab. Certain dishes like sarson ka saag, undhiyu, nimona pulao are winter specialites in the country. Seasonal food has always been an Indian speciality -- we switch our choice in fruits, vegetables, sometimes even grains with the onset of different season. The preference of using specific ingredients during certain climates is visible in our sweets as well. It's common to find local and traditional delicacies made of jaggery, instead of sugar during the winters. Case in point -- the Nolen Gur Rasgulla, a speciality made in Odisha and West Bengal between November to February.
Celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor, strongly advocates this need of eating seasonal produce. He says, "The beauty of our food is in our seasonal usage of fruits and vegetables. If you realise, Gajar ka halwa is made aplenty during winters as this is the season when beautiful red carrots hit the market or mango pickle is made during summer, thanks to its availability. Despite people and sometimes, even me, suggesting that we should eat fresh as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables, we do not know what chemicals are sprayed on them to keep them safe while they are growing. When this produce hits the market, there isn't a certifying agency like the FSSAI that will help people understand what vegetables and fruits are free of pesticides and germs and which ones don't. Hence, the onus lies on us to make them safe for consumption. ITC's Nimwash is a good solution."
When it comes to winters, the Chef recommends eating these fruit and vegetables:
* Purple Mogri -- Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country. But you can spot them during the winters in local markets in northern India where women pick them up to make raitas, curries and stir fries. Rich in magnesium, calcium and copper, the vegetable is known to aid people from digestive problems.
Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country, but you can spot them during the winters | Pixabay
* Sweet Potato -- A re-discovered favourite, Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. With its diverse addition in burgers, chips and even chat, the root vegetable is filled with nutrients such as fibres and vitamins.
Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. | Wikimedia Commons
* Avarekalu -- Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. Bangalore is famed for its Averakalu mela during the winter months, where you can find these beans in dosas, Pani puri and even Jalebis! Thronged by crowds from all over the city, the food fest is a gourmand's delight.
Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. | Wikimedia Commons
* Amla -- The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. High in Vitamin C, it is known to be immunity building and extremely beneficial for the skin and hair. There are multiple ways to eat Amla -- it is pickled, made into a fruit preserve called as Murraba or even eaten by sprinkling salt over it.
The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. | Pixabay
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: winter, Sanjeev Kapoor, chef, Indian gooseberry, Sweet Potato, Radish pods