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By Gaurav Sharma
What was once the Happy Arabia (Arabia Felix) has now transformed into a ghastly war-zone. Caught in the crossfire of power grab, the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen has been ravaged by a series of humanitarian crisis since the past decade.
Soaring unemployment, declining oil prices and water resources, apart from being the favorite hunting ground for al-Qaeda’s most vicious branch (AQAP) have metamorphosed Yemen into the poorest nation in the Middle East.
At the same time, a raging battle from multitudinal sides has wreaked havoc in Yemen, tearing it further apart into ever smaller factions.
According to UN reports, more than 1500 people have been killed in the burgeoning humanitarian crisis and almost 1 million persons have been displaced during the pitched conflict.
What is the war all about?
The conflagration of violence is a fight between the supporters of the current leadership of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and loyalists of the Zaidi Shia rebels, popularly known as the Houthis.
Loyalties have been sharply divided between the two forces. While the Sunni south region (particularly the tribesmen and militias) pledges allegiance to President Hadi, other units including ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a popular but polarizing figure in Yemen, vouch for the Houthis.
The battle is not just two-sided. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a deadly faction of the global terror group, assumes command in the south and the south-eastern regions of Yemen. It has launched several attacks including on several mosques apart from planning and undertaking the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France.
To make the grim situation more complex, Islamic State, the most barbarous of all al-Qaeda offshoots, has launched its own string of attacks against Shia Houthis. The terror outfit has warned that these attacks “are only a part of the impending flood”, highlighting the ethereal state of affairs in the country.
What about the rest of the Middle East?
The current restiveness in Yemen has implications for the rest of the middle east. Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab nation in Western Asia, has already launched widespread air strikes against the Houthis in view of the precarious situation.swept the capital city of Sanaa in 2014, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, and African nations including Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, and Egypt became wary of the potential rise of Shia Islam in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Moreover, in light of the boost received by Iran through the nuclear deal, the Gulf states suspect the hand of Iran behind the sudden rise of Houthis. (Iran is a Shia dominated country)
Growing more and more circumspect with the rise in Iranian ‘proxies’, the Saudi palace organized a 10-nation coalition to check the rise of Houthis and restore power in the hands of its ally, former President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The reason for declaring war on the Houthi rebels in Yemen follows from the contention that Iran is looking to expand its footprint in the Middle East. According to the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), up to 5,000 Iranian and Iraqi trainers were present in Yemen, before Saudi Arabia launched its offensive.
Are there other reasons for the conflict?
The sectarian hues and ideological differences notwithstanding, strategic considerations assume paramount importance in the battle for Yemen. The Bab al-Mandab strait, a channel between Yemen in the Arabian peninsula and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, provides a crucial link between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden (a passage through which bulk of the world’s oil shipments pass).
Naturally, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, (along with the rest of the world) suspects a Houthi hijacking of the region, which would severely undermine free passage of goods and services to the other part of the world.
Another unlikely factor which led to the eruption of the political upheaval in Yemen is the dire ecological condition of the region. The groundwater situation has never been handled appropriately by the successive governments.
From 30 meters below surface in 1970’s to more than 1000 meters below surface in 2012, the groundwater condition has only deteriorated. There are reports doing the rounds that Yemen might claim the distinction for being the first country to run out of water. Lack of sufficient water means deficiency of food crops, thereby aggravating the situation further.
In the midst of the arid ecological future awaiting them, the Yemeni people had no option but to flee the country or to fight amongst each other small battles which sometimes, if not more often than not, assume epic proportions.
How did Yemen end up where it is today?
Apart from being a possible location for the Biblical kingdom of Sheba, Yemen acted as a conduit (spice route) to the Middle East for African, Asian nations.
The modern state of Yemen propped-up in 1990, after the unification of the communist south Yemen and the traditional northern region. In 1994, a civil war ensued between the south and the north quelling the southern separatists.
However, in 2009, Shia Houthis and the government troops clashed resulting in the massacre of scores of innocent civilians along with the displacement of thousands. Two years later, at the peak of the Arab Spring, protestors revolted against the more than 30-year-old rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, resulting in his overthrowing.
During the transformation phase, Yemen became the hotspot for Islamic militants even as the western powers launched a clampdown on al-Qaeda activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Houthi rebels used the fragile governance landscape to their advantage and reemerged as the harbingers of revolt.
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.
OṀ KALMASHARAHITABHŨMYAI NAMAH:
OṀ (AUM) -KAL-MA-SHA-RA-HI-TA-BHOO-MYAI— NA-MA-HA
ॐ कल्मषरहितभूम्यै नमः
(Kalmasham: Tainted, blemish, dirty, sinful, wicked, foul, dosha, opprobrium, stigma; Rahita: Absent, devoid of)
Kalmasham is the opposite of purity; it means impure, contaminated and defective. The word is used in several senses such as: defective, fault, sin, dosham, tainted, vice, crime, disrespect, abuse, evil and contamination. However, it is also used in a technical sense in certain fields of knowledge. In Vedic literature we see words like pavitram, and pavitrata in the opposite sense of kalmasham. We, as Hindus, see everything as pure and equitable with God in an implied meaning that every atom at the microscopic level is part of the Supreme Power (Bhagavān). Having this knowledge and understanding, Hindus see the presence of God in living as well as non-living objects and have a pavitra meaning- kalmasharahita bandham.
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In Vedas and Purāṇās, Lord Shri Ramachandra Murty is portrayed without any defects and His marriage with Sīta was described as kalmasharahitam. He was glorified as the one who strictly observed the 'ekapatnī vratam' meaning-'one wife as a life partner'. Even when Sīta was abducted by the demon- Rāvaṇa and he kept her in his palace for a year, Rama did not look at another woman. The same credit goes to His consort and wife Sīta, who came out of Agni (pyre of fire) as a shining diamond proving her chastity and kalmasharahitam to the world. Our sacred literature is full of these incidents. Our dharmaśhāstrās explain that what is kalmasham is that which brings defection to one's purity. They advise purity in our thought, speech and actions.
God Ram and Goddess SitaGetty Pictures
There are many relationships we have as an individual. Some are pure and kalmasharahitam, as opposed to other relationships, like extramarital affairs. The relationship between husband and wife; brother and sister; father and daughter; parents and children; between siblings; teacher and student; among friends; and last but not least, between a devotee and his desired, beloved and personal god are considered kalmasharahitam.
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As a country, we have never waged war against another country with the intention of occupancy and robbing their wealth, or to convert them to our religion. We do not have that kalmasham on our hands or in our hearts.
Our land is 'Kalmasharahita Bhūmi'.