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New Delhi: The current mellow, accommodative outlook of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in striking contrast to the provocative anti-minority postures of the 1990s, is the result of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s wisdom and sobriety.
On his 91st birth anniversary on December 25, it is necessary to remember that he single-handedly extricated the party from its potentially doomed predilection with majoritarianism, which is in sync with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) concept of a Hindu Rashtra, where the minorities will be second class citizens.
But Vajpayee was a lone ranger who opposed this form of fascism and theocracy – not overtly or vociferously, for that was not his style – but unobtrusively and behind-the-scenes while making it clear to all and sundry that he could not be counted among Guru Golwalkar’s loyal disciples although he maintained that he was essentially a pracharak (preacher).
It was because of the palpable distance between Vajpayee and the core ideas of the RSS/BJP that he came to be known as the right man in the wrong party while the fiery Sadhvi Rithambara, who once called for one big khoon-kharaba (communal outbreak) between Hindus and Muslims, described him as “half a Congressman”.
“Why half,” Vajpayee had asked jocularly when he heard of the Sadhvi’s appellation for him. There was no sign of irritation or bitterness in his riposte just as he had told an interlocutor when informed about the Bajrang Dal’s antics – “pagal hai” (they are mad) – half in jest and half with a sense of resignation.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 were, however, the real test of his statesmanship. As he told the state’s chief minister of the time, Narendra Modi, who was known in that period as an uncompromising hardliner, that it was the bounden duty of the government to follow “raj dharma” or the ideals of a ruler which make no distinction between one category of citizens and another.
More than two decades later, Modi is now following this sage counsel because of his and his party’s – though not of the RSS – realization that strict neutrality in the running of the administration is the only way to keep the multicultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic country together.
Since Vajpayee knew this cardinal reality instinctively and reflected it in his personal life, he was able to achieve what no other leader has been able to do before or after him – run a 24-party coalition at the centre. Only a true proponent of raj dharma could have scaled such heights in accommodative politics.
It was the Gujarat riots which led to the unravelling of the coalition and ultimately to the BJP’s defeat in 2004 – for which Vajpayee held the 2002 outbreak responsible.
Had the riots not taken place, there is little doubt that his coalition would have remained intact and that he would have won another term in office.
Although Vajpayee has now bowed out of public life, the standards he had set in the matter of communal amity have brought about a seminal change in the BJP’s outlook. Not surprisingly, the first major sign of the change occurred in Gujarat where Modi organized his sadbhavna or goodwill missions soon after his victory in the 2007 assembly elections. Since then, as his description of the constitution as the country’s one and only holy book shows, Modi has imbibed what Vajpayee said sitting by his side during a press conference in Ahmedabad in 2002.
Notwithstanding Modi’s personal transformation from a hardliner to a moderate, not everyone in the BJP has unreservedly accepted Vajpayee’s advice. There are still MPs and ordinary members who are Golwalkar’s followers rather than Vajpayee’s although Modi has been trying to rein them in.
It will obviously take time for everyone in the BJP to live up to Vajpayee’s lofty examples in the matter of harmonious living in a country of 12 religions and 22 languages, as Modi recently told parliament.
Unless the party follows the former prime minister’s ideals, it will not have much of a future in a pluralistic society which instinctively shuns extremism.
To students of contemporary politics, the question will remain whether Vajpayee should have tried harder to inculcate his conciliatory message in the saffron brotherhood comprising the RSS, BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and others during his days in power (1998-2004).
If anyone in the Sangh Parivar could have done so, it was him because of his high stature and unassailable prestige. But such an endeavour would have meant taking on the hawks in a frontal confrontation to turn them away from their fascistic, anti-minority weltanschauung which they have followed since the 1920s.
Vajpayee was temperamentally not ready for such a battle. In the 1990s, it was enough for him to have lifted the BJP by the bootstraps to bring it to the centre-stage of politics from the margins, where it had languished for decades. This feat was something which only Vajpayee could have accomplished because of his wide acceptability across the political spectrum. For him to have battled the RSS, too, would have been too much.
But it is a task which someone in the BJP would have to take up sooner or later if the party wants to be a long-distance runner in Indian politics.(Amulya Ganguli, IANS)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)