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Over 400 US World War II servicemen estimated to be missing in India’s Northeast

The DPAA conducted field activities in Arunachal Pradesh from November 1-December 14, 2016, in search of US World War II unaccounted for personnel

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Indian Troops in Burma, Wikimedia

Kolkata, May 31, 2017: Over 400 US World War II servicemen are estimated to be missing in India’s northeast where recent field activities have yielded evidence possibly associated with unaccounted-for personnel, a US Defense Department official said here on Wednesday.

We estimate there are 425 servicemen still missing in northeast India, as per records from Second World War. We were flying missions from India, supporting our efforts in China and Myanmar and so there were crash sites that incurred accidents either because of weather or malfunctions or even enemy action and airplanes crashed and were lost, said Lt. Col Kevin Pritz of the Department of Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA), adding those missing were air servicemen.

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According to Pritz, there have been six identifications since 2013 and the remains have been returned to their families.

Participating in a talk and interactive session on The Anatomy of a Dig: Forensic Science and Anthropology, Pritz and forensic anthropologist Meghan-Tomasita Cosgriff from DPAA discussed how the various facets of forensic science and anthropology play a vital role in assisting the agency in recovering remains of missing US soldiers.

The DPAA conducted field activities in Arunachal Pradesh from November 1-December 14, 2016, in search of US World War II unaccounted for personnel.

The team recovered evidence that was subsequently examined by a Joint Forensic Review Committee comprising both DPAA and Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) members.

On December 7, 2016, the committee determined that the evidence was possibly correlated to US WWII service members unaccounted for from that region, and recommended the remains and material evidenceAbe transported to a DPAA laboratory for further analysis.

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In June, 2017, DPAA personnel will escort the evidence from Kolkata to a laboratory in Honolulu for analysis.

This activity marked the seventh mission relating to U.S. unaccounted for personnel conducted in India.

Past missions include: three recovery missions during 2008 and 2009 in Arunachal Pradesh, one investigation in Tripura in 2013, one investigation in Assam and Nagaland in 2014, one recovery in Arunachal Pradesh in 2015, and one investigation in Arunachal Pradesh 2016.

The Indian government has extended its full support to all these humanitarian missions. (IANS)

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USS Missouri Undergoes Renovation ahead of World War II End Anniversary

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that the battleship will undergo repairs to its aft superstructure that are expected to be completed in August

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USS Missouri, world war II
FILE - This Nov. 11, 2004, file photo shows The USS Missouri's main battery of three 16-inch/.05 caliber gun turrets in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. VOA

A section of the USS Missouri is being repaired as part of a $3 million restoration project to address rust and other deterioration on the Pearl Harbor memorial ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The 887-foot (270-meter) Missouri was the site of Japan’s unconditional surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that the battleship will undergo repairs to its aft superstructure that are expected to be completed in August.

Last year, a $3.5 million renovation was done on the tallest portion of the superstructure. Michael Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, said rust is an ongoing issue for the historic ship.

USS Missouri, world war II
FILE – In this Sept. 2, 1945, file image provided by the U.S. Navy, F4U and F6F fighter planes fly in formation over the USS Missouri while the surrender ceremonies to end World War II take place aboard the U.S. Navy battleship in Tokyo Bay. VOA

About 12,000 square feet (1,100 square meters) of steel will be sandblasted and painted, and some 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms) of steel will be replaced. Five hundred gallons of paint will be used. “These parts of the ship have not been [sand] blasted and painted in 30 years since the ship was recommissioned in the 1980s, so it’s well past time to do it,” Carr said.

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A week of activities is being planned in September 2020 at the Missouri as well as the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum to honor the end of the war. Carr said almost all of the Missouri’s main deck will have new teak by the surrender anniversary on Sept. 2, 2020.

More than 2,000 sailors and Marines were aboard the ship for the ceremony that Gen. Douglas MacArthur said was intended to “conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored.” (VOA)

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Stop “Stereotyping” Northeast, States Hold Strong Cultural Harmony

Anungla Longumer, a writer-musician from Nagaland, explained how her state that has 14 different tribes, has massive ethnic diversities but comes together with a "common cultural ethos".

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north east india
Northeast is filled with diversities, shouldn't be stereotyped,pixabay

Writers and intellectuals from the northeast have said that the region is full of ethnic and linguistic diversity and urged the rest of the country to stop “stereotyping” the people living there as peripheral.

Noting that the northeastern states have a  but are marred by political conflicts, they claimed that the region can become “a great force” if the political ideologies match.

“The people of northeast are evolving while people from the rest of the country have a fixed image about us as a whole. Such stereotyping is often disturbing. People just lump us together and term all of us as the ‘northeasterns’,” Anjulika Samom, an independent journalist from Manipur said during a session at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet 2019 here.

north east India

Noting that the northeastern states have a  but are marred by political conflicts, they claimed that the region can become “a great force” if the political ideologies match.

Explaining the centre-periphery concept about the states, Dolly Kikon, a social anthropologist from Nagaland, said the region is conceived as peripheral due to policies made by the Central government and said such concepts should be questioned.

“The centre-periphery thing has its origin in the securitisation of the region and also the kind of policy that are made in Delhi. It has been built using a very colonial framework of remoteness. I think we need to question that,” she said.

Echoing her, Samom claimed that for the people living in those states, their habitat is the centre of their universe, while the other parts of the nation become peripheral.

north east india
Echoing her, Samom claimed that for the people living in those states, their habitat is the centre of their universe, while the other parts of the nation become peripheral. pixabay

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Anungla Longumer, a writer-musician from Nagaland, explained how her state that has 14 different tribes, has massive ethnic diversities but comes together with a “common cultural ethos”.

“On the ground we are very tolerant about our diversity. We identify and relate with each other. There are a lot of political conflicts in the region due to the ethnical diversity but at the ground level people are bound by a strong cultural ethos. The region can become a considerable force if it can come together in terms of common political ideologies,” she added. (IANS)

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Peace Visionary and a Man Who Believed in India’s Destiny and was Ready To Fight For It

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee -- one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it -- that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's peace visionary. Image: Flickr

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.

Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.

Vajpayee, former Indian Prime Minister
Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion.
In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.

He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.
His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach.

Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.

When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.

Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.

The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.

Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.

He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.

Also read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.

Vajpayee
Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.

The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in
the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party.

In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.
Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India.

Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.

He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.

Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.

His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”

In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.

While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.

A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as saying in a television interview that if and when he stepped down he would like to devote his time to writing and poetry. But fate ruled otherwise. The man who once rued that “I have waited too long to be Prime Minister” found his last days in a world far removed from the adulation and attention — though across the nation people prayed for his well-being — surrounded only by care-givers and close family whom he even failed to recognize. (IANS)