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Caste dominates in Bihar’s third round polling

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Patna: Caste, caste, caste… As Bihar readies for the third phase of assembly elections on Wednesday, caste seems to have taken the centre stage yet again.

Although rival claimants for power are talking about issues related to economic development, political activists and voters think it is caste which will finally determine who votes for who.

That has made the Bihar battle all the more tough for everyone.

A total of 50 of the 243 constituencies, nearly a dozen of them urban centric and in the fertile belt in Bihar’s six districts, go to the polls on Wednesday. The five-phase elections end on November 5.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, this region, like most of Bihar, voted overwhelmingly for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP-led four-party alliance wants to repeat the show now.

So the third phase will be a litmus test for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s claims of having provided development and good governance.

Nitish Kumar’s home turf Nalanda, known as ‘Kurmistan’ due to the dominance of his Kurmi caste, is likely to back the Grand Alliance of his JD-U, RJD and Congress.

Lalu Prasad’s prestige is at stake as his sons — Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejaswi Yadav — are in the fray.

They are contesting from Mahua and Raghopur seats respectively in Vaishali district. Lalu Prasad has vigorously campaigned for them. His wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi has confined herself to the two constituencies.

In both seats, Lalu Prasad’s community may decide the fate of his sons.

The BJP and its allies’ campaign managers know the voting may not follow the Lok Sabha pattern when a Modi wave bulldozed everyone else.

Comments against job reservation made by the RSS chief — later disowned by BJP leaders — has been a major campaign issue.

To counter it, the BJP has claimed that the Janata Dal-United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress are trying to ensure job quotas for Muslims.

Modi has presented himself as a “son of poor EBC” (extreme backward caste) tea seller.

Nitish Kumar has taken on Modi over his caste comment.

“From a development driver, he first became an OBC and now he is calling himself an EBC. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a Dalit also in course of time,” the JD-U leader quipped.

The BJP is banking heavily on the EBCs and Dalits and other backward castes, including Yadav voters, to get the winning votes.

It appears confident of the overwhelming support of upper castes along with some OBCs and EBCs as well as Dalits, mainly because of its alliance with former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan.

But in election rallies, both Modi and his foes talk about how to develop Bihar.

About 14.5 million voters are eligible to decide the fate of 808 candidates on Wednesday. Most of the 14,170 polling booths are in rural areas. The six districts where polling will be held are Patna, Saran, Vaishali, Nalanda, Bhojpur and Buxar.

The first phase of voting on October 12 saw polling in 49 assembly seats, followed by 32 constituencies on October 16.

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms and the National Election Watch, 215 candidates in the third round face serious criminal charges including those of murder.

(Imran Khan, IANS)

 

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

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The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of Salesforce.com and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.

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Narendra Modi App : Amazing Platform where Prime Minister connects with the citizens

Wanna give ideas to or interact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Go and download Narendra Modi app on android and iOs

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Narendra Modi App
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an amazing sense of connecting with masses. Prime Minister knows the nerve of Indian public and at various instances proves himself as a pan Indian leader. Prime Minster Modi is undoubtedly one of the most tech-savvy global leader and a big promoter of e-governance and m-governance since a long time. Within two months of assuming Prime Minister-ship, he had launched the ambitious myGov project. In continuing the tradition of citizen connect, Prime Minister Modi took another step towards connecting with the people at their convenience by launching Narendra Modi app couple of years back.

Narendra Modi app
Prime Minister launching Narendra Modi App

The Narendra Modi app provides updates on the day-to-day activities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It presents an opportunity to receive messages and emails directly from Shri Narendra Modi. There is also an option to contribute and earn ‘badges’ through to-do tasks in various social initiatives. Through Narendra Modi app, one can tune-in and listen to the various episodes of ‘Mann ki Baat’, read Prime Minister Modi’s blogs, and get to know more about him from his Biography section. Narendra Modi app also provides comprehensive information on initiatives and achievements of the Union Government, which has an ‘infographics’ section for insights.

Such type of initiative by a global leader gives a strong message how technology can be used by governments to bridge gap between leaders and citizens. apart from this app Prime Minister Modi is also very much active on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Prime Minister Modi is the one of the most followed global leader on Twitter.

So what are you waiting for. Go and share some ideas of innovation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and contribute in his vision of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”.

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Surajpal Singh Amu: A case of Fatwa by Hindus?

BJP's Surajpal Singh Amu announced a reward roughly equivalent to $1.5 million to anyone who would behead Deepika Padukone and the film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

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Padmavati Banner
A man signs a banner during a signature campaign as part of a protest against the release of Bollywood movie "Padmavati" in Kolkata, India, Nov. 22, 2017. VOA

A leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has announced that he would pay a reward roughly equivalent to $1.5 million to anyone who would behead an Indian actress and a film director.

Surajpal Singh Amu, a member of the BJP in northern Haryana state, is apparently upset about an upcoming movie, Padmavati, starring actress Deepika Padukone as the 14th-century Hindu queen Padmini.

The movie is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Amu alleged that the movie is misleading, not based on truth and offends Hindu sentiments in the country.

FILE - Actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali attend the opening of the 13th annual Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Nov. 29, 2013.
FILE – Actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali attend the opening of the 13th annual Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Nov. 29, 2013. VOA

“We will reward the ones beheading them, with 10 crore rupees, and also take care of their family’s needs,” Amu said in an interview with India’s Asia’s Premier News (ANI) earlier this week.

Threats against movie

Amu also vowed not to allow the release of the movie and warned movie theaters to avoid playing the movie or risk being torched.

The movie was set to be released during the first week of December.

Rights activists have reacted strongly to the threats and urged the government to take action.

“This is pretty outrageous that you announce publicly and no action takes place at a time when people are being arrested for most trivial reasons in this country,” Gotum Naulakha, an Indian-based civil liberties activist, told VOA.

A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie "Padmavati" outside a theater in Mumbai, India, Nov. 21, 2017.
A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie “Padmavati” outside a theater in Mumbai, India, Nov. 21, 2017. VOA

An official complaint has been registered against Amu, but many are criticizing the stance of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — which controls the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — on the matter.

“I’ve not heard any official stance from the central government or the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” Vinod Sharma, an Indian-based analyst, told VOA.

Anil Jain, a local BJP spokesperson, told ANI that the law applies to everyone in the state of Haryana and no one can threaten others. The central government has yet to react, however.

Bollywood actress Padukone stood her ground and said the movie would be released despite the threats.

“Where have we reached as a nation? We have regressed. The only people we are answerable to is the censor board, and I know and I believe that nothing can stop the release of this film,” Padukone told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) last week.

Controversy

Padmavati was controversial right from the start. Opponents of the movie stormed the filming of one scene and destroyed the film sets. They were upset that the director of the movie was distorting facts by alleging romance between the Hindu queen and the Muslim invader Alauddin Khilji.

Film director Bhansali, however, denies the allegations and maintains the story is based on a Sufi and medieval-era poem written about the Hindu queen. In the poem, the Hindu queen chooses death before the Muslim conqueror could capture her.

Some experts say the poem is centuries old and there is a possibility the Hindu queen might be purely a fictional character found only in folklore.

“There’s a lot of debate in India whether Padmavati was actually a living being many, many years ago or whether she was just an imagined person in a poem,” analyst Sharma said.

Rights activists maintain that if government fails to draw clear lines around the threat made by the politician, and discourage a growing sense of impunity for some, incidents like this will only increase and threaten the freedom of expression in the world’s biggest democracy.

“By letting loose and giving [a] sense of impunity to the goons of the ruling party or people who’re connected or close to the ruling party, we’re paving the ground for much bigger and [worse] things to happen in the near future,” Naulakha told VOA.

The movie is awaiting approval from India’s Central Board of Film Certification.

Written by Madeeha Anwar of VOA.