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The Lost Word: Out of 389 licensed news channels only Doordarshan airs 5 minutes of Sanskrit news in India

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By Prachi Mishra

 

It won’t be erroneous to assume that most of the people in our country are unable to decipher the meaning of Sanskrit shlokas. The 1991 Indian census reported 49,736 fluent speakers of Sanskrit. In the year 2001, the number of speakers of Sanskrit reduced to 14,135. The fact that there’s only one television channel in our country, Doordarshan, which airs news bulletin in Sanskrit reflects the deplorable state of our ancient language.

In today’s world of commercialization, where due to cut-throat competition the news channels are employing several techniques and strategies to undermine their rivals, there is only one channel which, unaffected by this rat-race, has tried to preserve our heritage. What could be more disconcerting than this?

Sanskrit is the root of all major Indian languages, a true reflection of its rich cultural heritage. However with the advent of western- style education system, imposed by the British, Sanskrit has lost its privileged status.

In the present- day scenario, Sanskrit is a language which is looked down upon. It is not prioritized in our society and there is a perception that Sanskrit education is a means to educate only the priests and those who want to teach the subject. Due to this lack of interest, the funds provided for its training are scarce. While in India the state of our ancient language is deplorable, there has been an increased interest in the study of Sanskrit in foreign nations. It is ironic that most of our ancient scriptures and texts are now being translated from Sanskrit by foreign authors.

Amidst this scenario, the attempt of Doordarshan to revive the language in the country is praise- worthy. It has tried to take Sanskrit beyond all the limitations, trying to create a renewed interest for the language. The bulletin aired in Sanskrit is presently only five minutes long, but there has been a demand to increase the duration.

The need of the hour is that appropriate measures should be taken to resuscitate Sanskrit from the abyss it has fallen into. It is sad that, while there are several channels airing bulletins in Hindi, English and other regional languages as well, there’s only one show which is creating awareness of the richness of Sanskrit language.

 

 

 

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English-speaking ISIS Supporters Exploit Messaging App

English-speaking Islamic State supporters are refusing to give up

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English, ISIS, Supporters, Messaging
The Telegram logo is seen on a screen of a smartphone in this illustration, April 13, 2018. VOA

English-speaking Islamic State supporters are refusing to give up on the terror group’s ability to remain a force in Syria and Iraq, according to a new study that examined their behavior on the Telegram instant messaging service.

The report, “Encrypted Extremism: Inside the English-Speaking Islamic State Ecosystem on Telegram,” released Thursday by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, looked at 636 pro-Islamic State channels and groups in the 16 months from June 2017 through October 2018.

It found that even as the terror group was losing ground in Syria and Iraq to U.S.-backed forces, and even as IS leadership was encouraging followers to start looking to progress in IS provinces elsewhere, English-speaking supporters turned to Telegram to reinforce their faith in the caliphate.

“These are supporters that like to fight uphill battles,” report co-author Bennet Clifford told VOA. “What supporters are trying to do when they’re engaging with this conversation is attempt to shift the narrative away from loss and provide justifications for it.”

English, ISIS, Supporters, Messaging
FILE – An Islamic State flag is seen in this photo illustration. VOA

At the same time, these English-speaking supporters sought to amplify their beliefs, supplementing official IS propaganda with user-generated content while also increasing the distribution of instructional material on how to carry out attacks.

“I think it’s part of an attempt in some cases to spin the narrative their way,” Clifford added.

Attraction of Telegram

IS supporters first started flocking to Telegram, an instant messaging service that promises speed and encryption for private communications, in 2015 as social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook began a crackdown aimed at Islamic State’s often violent and gory propaganda.

Since then, IS has been hooked by Telegram’s promise that it will not disclose user data to government officials and by the service’s ability to let supporters organize and share large files, including video.

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“No other platforms appear to have developed the same balance of features, user-friendliness, and basic security that could warrant a new switch,” the report said.

That ease of use has long worried counterterrorism officials, who have watched as IS has used the online ecosystem to help plan and carry out the November 2015 attacks in Paris, attacks on a Christmas market in Berlin in December 2016 and the attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul just weeks later.

English-speaking facilitators

In those cases, the attackers appear to have been given instructions from IS officials in Syria and Iraq. But Telegram has given rise to several key English-speaking facilitators who have been operating on the periphery.

English, ISIS, Supporters, Messaging
FILE – Karen Aizha Hamidon, who allegedly worked to encourage several Indian militants last year to join the Islamic State group in the Middle East, is surrounded by reporters after attending a hearing at the Department of Justice in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 3, 2017. VOA

One of them, according to Clifford and co-author Helen Powell, was 36-year-old Karen Aizha Hamidon, who helped mobilize sympathizers from the United States to Singapore to join the terror group or its affiliates.

Hamidon, who was arrested by Philippine authorities in October 2017, has also been linked to efforts to establish an IS province in India.

Another key player, 34-year-old Ashraf al-Safoo, took a different approach before being arrested last October by the FBI in Chicago.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, al-Safoo was a key member of the Khattab Media Foundation, which used hacked social media accounts on platforms like Twitter to disseminate IS propaganda.

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“Much of the propaganda created and distributed by Khattab promotes violent jihad on behalf of ISIS and ISIS’s media office,” the Justice Department said in a statement using a different acronym for the militant group.

While both Hamidon and al-Safoo are now in custody, showing the ability of law enforcement to penetrate their Telegram operations, others are likely to replace them because of the ongoing need of Islamic State’s English-speaking supporters to communicate and find larger audiences.

“While there are a number of disadvantages for Islamic State supporters in the use of Telegram from a security perspective they’ll continue to do it because their balance of outreach and operational security,” Clifford said. “There’s not another alternative at this point in time.” (VOA)