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New Delhi: His boots and cameras have traversed nearly all of the globe, but hold a very special place for one of his favourite places on the earth – India. Steve McCurry, whose camera captured the haunting and iconic “Afghan Girl” for an NG cover, said “secularism and inclusiveness are one of the greatest things about India” although there could be contradictions about the country.

McCurry, one of the most renowned photojournalists in the world, was speaking to IANS from New York, before the launch of his book ‘Steve McCurry: India’ (Phaidon, £39.95, 208 pp), which presents a vibrant India with “contradictions and excitements”, as he terms them.


“The greatest thing about India is it is inclusive and secular. It is a home to people of many religions, castes, and communities. India has always been a place of extreme drama – things constantly fascinating yet equally disturbing. It’s a place of extremes,” McCurry told IANS in a telephonic interview.

He has travelled to innumerable countries, but the “openness and ability to speak freely” in India makes him feel “comfortable and safe”, he said.

As much love as he has for the country, Kashmir posed him with a life-endangering moment while he photographed the conflict-prone state, McCurry said.

“In Kashmir, I felt there was always tension. The time I felt my life was in danger was one time in a taxi from Srinagar to Kargil. There was a convoy at 7 or 8 in the night on very precarious mountain road in Himalayas and we were told to switch off our lights, because there was shelling from the Pakistani side. It was a a very alarming experience,” McCurry explained.

He stepped into India first in 1978, from where he went to Peshawar to photograph the “Afghan Girl” in 1985. Since then, he’s been in India 75 times, spending a total of five years spread over different periods. He holds a “deeper appreciation for the country than a casual traveler,” McCurry said.

McCurry’s picture of the “Afghan Girl” in a red scarf, her green eyes staring intently at the camera, became one of the most famous pictures in the world. He had again located the girl nearly two decades later, but “that isn’t possible at all times, as the interactions happen on a remote level with the subjects”, he said.

There is mystery, contradiction and diversity in a “vibrant and colourful” India, that McCurry displays. In his new book, McCurry captures India through an inverted Taj Mahal in the water, the colours of Rajasthan, the stark contrasts and inequalities India’s cities come with and other striking elements of India.

“India has been very dear, through the conversations I’ve had with people on trains, or being a part of the festivals and many regional characteristics each state holds. Although the whole world is getting globalised, India has a very strong and diverse character, which I don’t see anywhere else,” he said, overwhelmed by his love for this country.

As a photojournalist, McCurry had worked in many conflict situations, like the Afghan Civil War, the Gulf War, Iraq-Iran War and others, capturing on film the “essential soul peeking out and experiences etched on a person’s face” during conflicts.

Asked if he was ever caught in a situation like Kevin Carter (a South African Pulitzer-winning photojournalist who killed himself after his photograph of a starving child waiting to be killed by a vulture was published), deciding whether to press the camera’s trigger or save a life in a conflict zone, McCurry said: “There is no picture worth a human life.”

“There was a time in Afghanistan when a colleague and I shifted this wounded man to hospital and probably saved his life because he wouldn’t have made it through the night. One must work with compassion and there is no picture worth a human life,” he said.

Inspiration for all his impactful photographs comes from his travelling and meeting people, he said, adding that it’s “overwhelming to see the past I have captured through my shots.”

Rubin Museum in New York would be displaying McCurry’s photographs on India from November 18.

McCurry said his next project would be around people reading, where he photographs people reading all around the world in some of the most unusual circumstances.

(Bhavana Akella, IANS)


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Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Char Dham Yatra resumed on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.

Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.

Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.

As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.

Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.

Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.

Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.

Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.

Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.

Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.

Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.

The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.

To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.

Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.

The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.


Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.

Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.

The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.

When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.

"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.

"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.

Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.

On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.

Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.

Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.

The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.


Photo by Wikimedia Commons

India-England test series will now be played next year from July 1 at Edgbaston Stadium

The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.

"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.

ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.

"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.

"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.

"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."

"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.