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Tamil Nadu to Build Safe Houses for Inter-Caste Couples

last week, TN High Court directed the state government to build safe shelters and set up a 24-hour helpline, among other measures, for inter-caste couples who fear for their lives

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Kamna Gautam and Gowri Shankar celebrate their wedding in Delhi on Dec. 2, 2010.

Chennai, April 20, 2016:

For Gowri Shankar and Kamna Gautam, an inter-community couple from Tamil Nadu in the south of India, the state government’s decision to provide protection to couples like them has come as a huge relief.

Shankar, an upper caste Brahmin from Kumbakonam, married Kamna, who belongs to a lower community of Brahmins, in 2010, against the wishes of their families. The couple was forced to live apart from relatives until two years ago when the families “finally relented.”

Shankar said he was lucky.

“It could have been a lot worse,” he said, referring to a string of recent “honor killings” in his state.

Honor killings, in which couples are attacked because their families disapprove of their relationships over caste or religion, have emerged as a major debate in the last two decades in officially secular but historically caste-conscious India.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Shankar hailed last week’s High Court order, which directed the Tamil Nadu government to build safe shelters and set up a 24-hour helpline, among other measures, for inter-caste couples who fear for their lives.

“Such an order was long overdue because there is no place for caste discrimination in modern-day India,” he said.

“It is a big relief for us and many other couples that don’t care about the caste of their partner, but still have to live each day in fear of being attacked or killed by their own families,” Shankar, a software engineer, told BenarNews.

However, Shankar expressed doubt about how the order would be carried out.

“Tamil Nadu police officials are also caste-ist. So, I’m not sure how they’re planning to implement this,” he said.

Government seeks data

A senior state official said Monday that the government had already begun work to implement the High Court order.

Raj Shekharan, deputy secretary of the Department of Social Welfare, told BenarNews: “We have already directed our field officers to send us the data for ‘honor killings’ from their respective areas. After we receive their reports, we will consult the law department and other concerned agencies before preparing a draft proposal (to address the problem).”

Evidence, a Tamil Nadu-based organization working to secure rights of the Dalit community, which forms the lowest rung of the Hindu caste hierarchy, claims there have been more than 80 honor killings in the state in less than three years.

Although India-specific figures are unavailable, U.N. statistics show that 1,000 of 5,000 such killings annually occur in India, a majority of them in the country’s rural pockets.

Hacked to death

In the latest such incident, V. Sankar, a 22-year-old engineering student, was hacked to death allegedly by members of his wife’s family in broad daylight in Tamil Nadu’s Udumalpet town last month.

Sankar, a Dalit, had married Kausalya, 19, who belongs to the upper Thevar caste, eight months before the brutal attack, which occurred in full public view and was caught on closed-circuit cameras.

Sankar and Kausalya, who was critically injured in the attack, had approached police on several occasions, citing threat to life, but no action was taken to provide them with security, Sankar’s brother, Vigneswaran, had told BenarNews then.

Last week’s court ruling is set to change that.

Three-month deadline

Among the court’s nine-point directive, the state government has been ordered to establish a special cell in each of the state’s districts to ensure the safety of inter-caste couples who fear attacks from family or community members.

These cells, which have to be set up within three months, must comprise a Superintendent of Police, District Social Welfare Officer and District Adi Dravidar (Dalit) Welfare Officer, according to the directive.

The government must also create a special fund to protect inter-caste couples who elope fearing a threat to life, the court said. The fund is to be utilized for providing shelter to the couples and rehabilitating them.

A bill that calls for harsher punishment for honor crimes has been debated since 2010 but has yet to be tabled in parliament for clearance.

“Legislation to take stringent action against those involved in honor killings should be brought forward,” G. Ramakrishnan of the left-wing Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) told reporters recently.

“Without considering the political affiliation or vote bank politics, it is the responsibility of all parties to put an end to such heinous crimes,” he said.

Calls for similar setup across India

Priyanka Gupta, a social development officer from Rajasthan state who married her upper-caste colleague Laxman in 2012 against the wishes of his family, said a system to protect inter-caste couples should be put in place across India.

“We don’t need moral policing. What we need is awareness campaigns all over India,” Gupta told BenarNews.

“It is strange that the country believes you can choose your government at 18 years, but your family and community members don’t give you the right to choose your life partner,” she said.

Neeraj Pandey, a lawyer in the High Court of north India’s Uttar Pradesh state, which has one of the highest rates of honor killings in the country, agreed with Gupta.

Each day the Uttar Pradesh court hears about 80 cases pertaining to honor crimes, Pandey told BenarNews.

“Soon, we will move a Public Interest Litigation seeking directions to the state government to take stringent measures to curb honor killings,” he said. (BenarNews)

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Lost in Time : The Less Explored Pamban Island and the Rameswaram Island | Travelogue

The land of temples, picturesque locales, architecture, and the home of the 'Missile Man' of India - welcome to the Rameswaram Island!

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We take you through a town lost in time, Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram island. Wikimedia

Rameswaram, September 15, 2017 : Off the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, some 500 km south of Chennai, lies Pamban Island. Seemingly a stone’s throw from neighboring Sri Lanka, this is an island steeped in historical significance, and with some of the most resilient people alive.

One of the longest sea bridges in the country, the iconic Pamban Bridge connects the mainland with the island, also known as Rameswaram Island. With breathtaking views of the Bay of Bengal, the journey to the island over this bridge rewinds one to colonial times, when it was built by the British to improve trade relations with Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Built in 1914 as India’s first-ever sea bridge, the 6,700-foot structure is in itself an engineering and historical marvel that has withstood several of nature’s furies — from storms to cyclones.

Rameswaram island
An overview of the Pamban Brindge. Wikimedia

The bridge initially ran up to the southeastern tip of the island, Dhanushkodi, now a ghost town. After a cyclone hit it in 1964, Dhanushkodi was washed away by the sea and is now a mere skeleton of the town it once was.

Remnants of its railway lines, church and the devastated dwellings of people can still be seen, though in very poor shape.

From the tip of the region, cell phone networks welcome one to Sri Lanka.

Visible from here is the Adam’s Bridge — a former land link between India and Sri Lanka, now undersea — that is also known as Rama Setu, the bridge believed to have been built by Lord Rama’s army to rescue Sita from Lanka.

Nambavel, a 50-year-old, says there can be no other home for him than Dhanushkodi, of pristine waters and picturesque views of the Bay of Bengal. Three generations of his family have lived here. Although the deadly cyclone forced many to migrate to villages around, some 50 families, including Nambavel’s, refused to leave.

“This has been our home for as long as we’ve known. We grew up playing in the sea water, then learnt to make our living through fishing or running petty shops,” Nambavel told this visiting IANS correspondent.

Rameswaram island
Residents of Dhanushkodi refuse to abandon their small town; for them the “sea is everything”. Wikimedia

“Even as many people we know migrated to nearby villages, there’s no home like Dhanushkodi for us — the sea is everything,” he said.

With sea levels rising around the world due to global warming, the region is constantly threatened by nature. But that does not deter Nambavel: “Even if another cyclone is close, most of us would like to be here, a land we’ve grown up in.”

Surrounded by sea and sand, the town cannot grow any crops and has no provision for electricity due to the wind velocity in the area. It is only the solar panels, an initiative of late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who hailed from Rameswaram, that light up the shacks of the few residents.

With Rameswaram considered one of the holiest places for Hindus, a majority of visitors make temples the focus of their travels.

Aiming to showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of the island, apart from the much-visited temples, Utsa Majumder, the General Manager of the newly-launched Hyatt Place, Rameswaram, is working extensively on various itineraries that uncover the untrodden places in and around the region.

“There’s a lot more that the Rameswaram Island can offer than just the temples it is mostly known for. We want people to know that Rameswaram can be an experiential destination and not just a pilgrimage spot,” Majumder told IANS.

“From historic places that have stood the test of time to some incredible architecture and engineering like the Pamban Bridge, there’s a lot a tourist can see here,” she added.

The hotel offers these itineraries to travelers according to their interests, allowing them to explore different facets of the region, along with menus that present the cuisines of the land — from kuzhi paniyaram (rice batter dumplings) to kara kozhumbu (a spicy tamarind gravy).

Rameswaram Island
Local cuisine at Dhanushkodi. Wikimedia

The region also celebrates its much-beloved son Abdul Kalam. His two-storeyed house on Mosque Street is filled with thousands of his books and is always bustling with people.

A Rs 15-crore memorial to India’s “Missile Man”, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 27, has also grown rather quickly as a tourist attraction. The memorial houses a copy of the last speech Kalam delivered at IIM-Shillong on July 27, 2015, a number of pictures of his meetings with world leaders, and a host of other objects.

As an island that is yearning to receive a boost to its tourism, even a bottle of water bought from a shack in Dhanushkodi goes towards supporting a family.

FAQs:

Reaching there: Flights to Madurai, the nearest airport, from all major cities. From Madurai, Rameswaram can be reached in 3 hrs 30 min (160 kms) by road.

For the picturesque views from a train, pick one that is available almost every hour to Rameswaram from Madurai Railway Station.

Stay: There are four-star, three-star hotels and smaller lodges in the town.

Best time to visit: October to March as the temperatures drop and stay between 20 to 30 degrees C, making travel easier. (IANS)

 

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Hello Foodies ! You Can Spot These 8 Street Foods at Every Nook and Corner in India

Here is a list of delicious street food items, now available everywhere in India

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Delicious Street Food
Delicious Street Food in India. Wikimedia

Sep 02, 2017: Street foods in India is the new trend amongst foodies these days and are indeed delectable to savor. Previously, it was known that street food confined to a particular region. However, nowadays, a south Indian food can be found even in the north of the country and here is why you don’t need to go all the way to Assam to eat momos.

Many street food items have become quite popular throughout. Let’s have a look at these street food items.

Here is a list of delicious street food items, now available everywhere:

Vada Pao

Street Foods
Vada Pao in Delhi. Wikimedia

Vada Pao is the Indian style burger, quite famous in Maharastra. Fried potato dumplings are stuffed inside pao and are coupled with green chili and spicy chutney that add flavor to this Maharashtrian dish.

Chaat

Street Foods
Papri Chaat. Wikimedia

The sweet, tangy, and spicy taste of Aloo tikki, Gol Gappa, bhelpuri, Sevpuri, will tempt you. This is a mouth-watering street food from Uttar Pradesh. It adds extra taste to your buds when garnished with curd and chutney.

Momos

Street Foods
Cabbage Momos. Wikimedia

The white colored steamed snack of North East is getting popular amongst Indians these days. It makes an awesome combo when served with spicy red chutney and hot momos.

Also Read: “Regionality is What Sets Indian Food Apart” from the Cuisines Across the World, says MasterChef Australia Judge Gary Mehigan 

Poha Jalebi

Street Foods
Poha the staple breakfast of India, with Jalebi. Wikimedia

Sweet jalebis served with salty poha is a trademark street food of Madhya Pradesh. Now the combination is a hit amongst people of the country.

Idli Sambhar

Street Foods
Idli-Sambhar-Coconut chutney. Wikimedia

Idli Sambhar is the most popular street food of Tamil Nadu in India. It is a delicious combo of idli, sambhar and coconut chutney.

Chole Bhatura

Street Foods
Chole bhature. Wikimedia

Chole Bhature, a favorite dish of every Indian is chiefly a treat of Punjab.  It is served with green chilies, onions, and chutney.

Dhokla

Street Foods
Gujarati Dhokla (Khaman Dhokla). Wikimedia

The sweet-sour Dhoklas are a specialty of Gujarat state. It is a famous street food baked from the fermented batter of gram flour. This treat is also served with chutney and green chilies.

Pyaz ki Kachori

Street Foods
Rajasthani Pyaz ki Kachori. Wikimedia

Pyaz ki Kachori was originated in Jodhpur city of Rajasthan. The dish is now relished all over India. These crispy and flaky kachoris with onion masala, garnished with sweet tamarind chutney will throb your heart.


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Tamil Nadu Schools make Singing Vande Mataram Mandatory

The Madras court has announced that all schools throughout Tamil Nadu must make the singing of Vande Mataram mandatory

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Vande Mataram Mandatory
Students are to sing the national song twice as per the Madras High Court ruling. Wikimedia
  • Singing Vande Mataram is now mandatory in every school of Tamil Nadu after Madras high court announced its ruling
  • The students are to sing the national song twice every week
  • Given a valid reason, an individual or group may be exempted from the decision

July 29, 2017: Tamil Nadu school students are now compelled to sing Vande Mataram as per the Madras High Court’s recent ruling. The national song is to be sung twice a week.

Private as well as government schools have been instructed to comply with the ruling and confirm that it is implemented in their schools.

ALSO READ: First Clap: Short Film Fest to Unearth Budding Filmmakers from Tamil Nadu

The Madras Court’s ruling was the result of a petition filed by K Veeramani. Mr. Veeramani, interestingly, was unsuccessful in clearing the written test in the process of recruiting teachers because of a question related to the National song, mentioned PTI.

In an objective type question, K Veeramani selected Bengali as the original language in which national song was written. This answer was considered wrong by the board. Veeramani scored 89 while the cut off was 90. For this one mark and “wrongfully” missing the opportunity to work, he petitioned to the High Court.

And he was right. Advocate General R Muthukumarswamy agreed to K Veeramani’s claim. The National Song was originally penned in the Bengali Language.

PTI reports Justice M V Muralidharan gave no actual reasons behind this verdict. The Justice also said that Monday and Friday should be the ideal days.

Justice M V Muralidharan’s ruling is backed by Article 226 of the constitution; The High court posses the power to pass orders within their juridicial territory upon any individual or group. The Judge also stated, “If people feel it is difficult to sing the song in Bengali or in Sanskrit, steps can be taken to translate the song in Tamil. The youth of this country are the future of tomorrow and the court hopes and trusts that this order shall be taken in the right spirit and also implemented in letter and spirit by the citizenry of this great nation.”

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394