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Sitting on communal volcano: Why we must introspect

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By Sapan Kapoor

After days of violent protests in Punjab over the alleged sacrilege of various scriptures of Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, tension gripped the hilly Bhaderwah town in Jammu region on Friday over allegations that some unknown miscreants desecrated the Quran.

Shops, public transport, businesses and educational institutions remained closed in the town of Kishtwar after Muslims alleged that during Thursday’s Dussehra celebrations in the town, miscreants burnt some pages of the Quran.

On Friday, Muslim youth took to the streets, burnt tyres and blocked traffic on the roads. Bhaderwah has nearly as many Muslims as Hindus. Authorities said the situation is under control and the veracity of the allegation was being probed.

Meanwhile, a youth was arrested in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district for stabbing a constable in a bid to register protest against the ban on beef imposed in the state. Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is on the lookout for a local priest suspecting that he might have instigated 20-year-old Abdul Malik to attack the constable who survived the attack.

On the day of Bakr-eid this year on September 25, Abdul, an unemployed youth from Pusad village in Yavatmal, repeatedly stabbed the constable after offering namaz at a local mosque.

While stabbing him, an angry Malik allegedly could be heard screaming,

“Tumhari government beef ban karti hai, toh yeh lo (Your government bans beef, so you suffer).”

This alarming development is something we should definitely lose our sleep over. In the case of protests in Punjab, where several people have lost their lives in recent days, the involvement of foreign agencies, namely Pakistan’s ISI, has been alleged by the authorities. They accuse Pakistan of trying to fish in India’s troubled waters.

There might be some truth in this as well. It is likely that ISI has activated its sleeper cells in different parts of India to take advantage of the prevailing disturbing atmosphere in the country. Especially in Punja,b efforts seem to be on to revive now defunct Khalistan movement.

However, we as a society also need to look into the mirror and introspect. Why is it that our own people are seeking to polarize the society along the lines of caste, creed and religion, making it easy for hostile foreign forces to intervene? Why are people being bumped off for their eating habits, their ideas and the way of their life?

Two brothers, Rupinder Singh and Jaswinder Singh, accused of being involved in the desecration in Bargari, were arrested after their telephone calls were intercepted.

Additional Director-General of Police (crime and security) Iqbal Preet Sahota said, “The two brothers have been talking to their masters abroad, including Dubai and Australia, and discussed about delivery of cash to them in lieu of their acts of sacrilege”.

Here’s a transcript of one of the two conversations published in a newspaper.

Rupinder: The task is important. He has some stuff of Maharaj… pages
Jaswinder: The torn ones or the other…..?
Rupinder: Enough. Don’t talk further

Therefore, the foreign hand in these incidents to incite people into taking laws into their hands and dividing the country along the lines of religion, caste and language could not be ruled out.

However, we as a society also need to look into the mirror and introspect. Why is it that our own people are seeking to polarize the society along the lines of caste, creed and religion, making it easy for hostile foreign forces to intervene? Why are people being bumped off for their eating habits, their ideas and the way of their life?

In the past two weeks alone, three people have been killed following rumors of cow slaughter in different parts of India. In Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri, a 50-year-old Muslim man, Mohammed Akhlaq, was beaten to a sodden pulp and his son critically injured on September 28 after rumours spread that they had slaughtered a cow.

Days after, on October 17, a 20-year-old youth from Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, Noman, was lynched in Himachal Pradesh for being allegedly involved in ‘cattle smuggling’.

On October 19, a truck conductor died in Delhi after unknown assailants threw a petrol bomb on him in Jammu’s Udhampur following rumours that he slaughtered a cow.

There’s politics written all over these incidents. Can we blame foreign agencies too for these attacks on India’s minorities by our own people who seem to be pursuing the politics of polarization? Polarisation does help when it comes to polls (duh).

The truth is we are playing with fire, for mixing religion and politics could be dangerous. Ask Pakistanis who are still reaping what they sow during Zia’s regime in the 80s. We do not need to walk on the same dangerous path that will lead us to the abyss of darkness extrication from which will be impossible. United we stand divided we perish.

In President Pranab Mukherjee’s words,

“We can’t allow the core values of our civilisation to be wasted. The core values are that over the years, civilisation celebrated diversity, promoted and advocated tolerance, enjoyed plurality. These core civilisation values keep us together over the centuries.”

Let’s take a pledge to cleanse our hearts. Let there be peace in our words, thoughts and actions. Let’s tame the evil within us, for India’s soul is at stake.

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)