Thiruvananthapuram, December 01, 2015: Kerala Police on Monday registered a case against Hindu Ezhava leader Vellapally Natesan for a speech, just a few hours after Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said communal speeches, as those delivered by Natesan, have never been heard in the state till now.
Police in Aluva registered the case against Natesan under section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code (that deals with charges of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told reporters here on Monday evening.
Responding to the news of a case being registered against him, Natesan said he just revealed facts and did not mean to raise communal feelings.
“I will deal with this case politically and legally,” Natesan said at a public meeting in Kottayam.
Earlier in the day, at a press conference here, Chandy said: “He (Natesan) is spitting communal venom and his statement that the government is extending gratis to a brave person Naushad, who died while saving two lives, is most unfortunate and painful and made without knowing facts.”
Auto-rickshaw driver Naushad died in Kozhikode last week, when he bravely entered a manhole to rescue two migrant labourers who had got stuck there.
Natesan, who is on a state-wide yatra promoting a yet-to-be-announced political party of Hindus, said that if anyone has to get gratis from the Chandy government, then they should either be a Muslim or a Christian.
“I happened to read a news report on the tragic death of Naushad… and I decided to visit his house. When I was there, his friends, relatives and those gathered there requested me to help the family by giving a government job to Naushad’s wife and also financial assistance,” Chandy said.
“I said I will do the needful and this issue will come before the cabinet on Wednesday. I feel it’s the responsibility of the society and the government to extend help and it would be done,” he said.
“My government has always taken a humane approach to such incidents and has helped many people, as I think it’s our responsibility and it’s given looking at the need,” the chief minister added.
The Congress and the CPI-M have demanded tough action against Natesan for trying to invoke communal passions through his speeches.
“State Congress president V.M. Sudheeran has written a letter seeking action against Natesan for his inflammatory speeches and that has been passed on to the home department. The law will take its course,” said Chandy.
Natesan’s rally will reach the state capital on December 5 when he is expected to announce formation of a new party.
Hyderabad, December 05, 2015: Amid mounting tension on Osmania University campus over proposed beef festival by some students’ groups and a counter pork festival and ‘Gau Maata’ puja by their rivals, Hyderabad police on Friday decided not to give permission for any of the events.
With some groups going ahead with preparations for beef festival on December 10, their rivals also gearing up to hold pork festival and ‘Gau Maata’ puja the same day, police said no group would be allowed to hold any festivities.
In a statement, police said the decision was taken to maintain peace and tranquility in the campus.
“The members of the student community and others are requested to cooperate in this regard. All possible steps shall be taken to maintain peace and tranquillity in the Osmania University campus,” the statement said.
Some leftist and Dalit students’ groups have announced that they will hold a beef festival on Human Rights Day to uphold food right as one among the human rights.
Though the university authorities have refused to allow any festival, the groups said they go ahead with their plan.
On the other hand to counter the beef festival, right wing Hindu groups led by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have declared that they will conduct worship of cow at the temples on the campus and also take out a rally on the same day. They have also decided to stop the beef festival.
Some other groups opposing the beef festival plan to hold pork festival on the same day. Bharatiya Janata Party’s legislator Raja Singh has threatened that if beef festival was allowed, a Dadri-like situation might occur.
Students Federation of India (SFI) and others planning to hold beef festival have lodged a police complaint against Raja Singh. They also approached state human rights commission, seeking protection for the beef festival.
Mumbai, December 04, 2015: The BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government in Maharashtra has decided to not include India’s first Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in its list of 26 anniversaries of National personalities and days of significance that it wants all government offices to celebrate.
Through its circular on Monday, the state notified all government institutions to celebrate birth or death anniversaries in 2016 of 25 personalities and three other days of significance.
That means there will be 23 days of celebrations for anniversaries of National figures (Death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev to be observed on same day on March 23) and three other anniversaries – Day against Terrorism and Violence ( May 21), Sadbhavna Day (August 20) and Constitution Day ( November 26).
The notification also states specifically that even if anniversaries fall on holidays or second/ fourth Saturday, the institutions ought to observe anniversaries.
However, this list misses the name of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad whose anniversary on November 11 is celebrated nationwide as ‘National Education Day’. Removal of Maulana’s name means that no name of Muslim personality is on the list; giving a sense that either Muslims have not participated in the building of nation or it is an attempt to wipe out their contribution.
Non inclusion of Azad’s Anniversary in the list of the days to be celebrated in 2016 is against Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s own resolve and declaration of observing 2016 as the year of equality and harmony.
“The state government will observe 2016 as the year of equality and harmony and make special efforts to reach out to Dalits, Tribals and people from the lower strata of society,” Fadnavis had said on May 6, 2015 at a function organised to present Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Samaj Bhushan Awards.
Nonetheless, state has taken all due care to include Dalit faces in the list but has categorically avoided Muslim name by not even including Maulana Azad who happened to be India’s first Education Minister and a recipient of the posthumous Bharat Ratna award. He had laid the foundation for moving towards an educated India by serving as a Minister for 11 years after Independence.
This year even the central government virtually forgot to offer gratitude on the occasion of 127th birth anniversary of Azad. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not pay tribute to him on November 11 , even as he wished the nation on the occasion of Diwali.
Firoz Bakht Ahmed, columnist and grandnephew of Azad, has already expressed displeasure against the Central government for forgetting Maulana Azad and lamented that except for Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) that celebrates his anniversary every year, nobody is concerned about Azad.
Only couple of months ago, Union Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla expressed regrets that previous governments had failed to give due recognition to Maulana Azad for his role in transforming education in independent India.
“…I would like to tell you that it is unfortunate and regrettable that his contribution and thoughts are not remembered — neither by governments nor the people. He never got recognition from previous (successive) governments for what he did “, she had said on September 20, 2015 at a function organized at ICCR.
Bhopal, December 06, 2015: VHP leader Praveen Togadia on Sunday expressed hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would ensure a grand Ram Mandir is built in Ayodhaya as decided by the BJP national executive and promised in the Lok Sabha elections.
Togadia, the executive international president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), told reporters here that a grand temple of Lord Ram would be built at the place where Babri mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992.
“In the national executive meet of the BJP, a promise was made to build Ram temple on the lines of Gujarat’s Somnath temple by passing a law in parliament. I trust Narendra Modi,” Togadia said.
“I trust that fulfilling the promise made in the party’s resolution and promised during elections, he would realise the dream of millions of Hindus for building a temple dedicated to Lord Ram,” he added.
Giving a call to all Hindus to stay prepared to construct a grand Ram Mandir, he said the holy men should stay ready to follow direction.
“Lord Ram’s temple will be built, just as Sardar Patel had built Somnath temple, meaning by making a legislation in parliament,” the VHP leader said.
Panaji, December 06, 2015: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Sunday said B.R. Ambedkar and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh founder K.B. Hegdewar always put the nation before self in the face of extreme adversity.
“Very few can match the intellect of Ambedkar. He had the biggest role in framing our constitution… he freed thousands of people of his community from slavery,” Bhagwat said.
“He studied in adversity, put in Herculean efforts. But he used his talents not for himself, but for the country, for society,” the RSS chief added.
He was speaking at the inauguration of the newly-built premises of the K.B. Hedgewar School at Bambolim, on the outskirts of Panaji.
Like Ambedkar, Hedgewar too worked selflessly towards putting India on the right path from his childhood, Bhagwat said.
“… As a boy, he participated in the Vande Mataram agitation in Nagpur after which the British closed down all schools in Nagpur,” Bhagwat said, adding Hegdewar was rusticated from the school because he refused to apologise for his participation in the agitation.
“We had an old education system in India, it was very effective… but it’s back was broken by foreign invaders… The education system should be able to pull India out of slavery,” he said.
12 Muslim women among top 200 women nominees of #100women achievers contest of ministry of women & child development
New Delhi, December 06, 2015: The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), in collaboration with Facebook, have announced the #100Women initiative that seeks to recognize and acknowledge women who are making a difference in their communities, across the country.
12 Muslim women’s across the country have made it to the list of top 200 women nominees who were shortlisted by a jury constituted by MWCD in categories ranging from education, sports to women empowerment.
The Voting for the #100Women Achievers’ Contest has begun on MWCD Facebook page from December 3 to 20, 2015.
Through this initiative, the Ministry claims to acknowledge and recognize the women who have contributed to the community and nation building, and their achievements may have gone unsung.
The winners are expected to be invited to join a reception by the Ministry of Women and Child Development around the coming Republic Day.
In Agriculture and Animal Husbandry category Sainaba Yousuf from Palakkad, Kerala is one of the nominees. She has contributed to enhancing the livelihood opportunities in agriculture, animal husbandry and promoted sustainable farming.
Disability and advantage: Women’s who have contributed to the upliftment of the persons living with physical and mental disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and vulnerable disadvantaged groups.
Dr Shaik Abdul Thasleem Sultana from Renigunta, Andhra Pradesh: She has rehabilitated scores of physically and mentally challenged children at the district level.
Education: Women’s who have contributed to the lives of the community by promoting education and improving access to quality education.
Suraiya Bano from Bhilai, Chattisgarh : She has been honoured with national and international awards for her extra ordinary work in the stream of educational practices in the country.
Zainab Khan from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh : She transformed her life from child labor into an advocate of education for girls in her block at school. MPs from all over country applauded her efforts which led her to HT Woman Awards.
Rehana Rehaman from Shapur, Uttar Pradesh: A crusader on foot who went from home to home to educate the muslim girl child.
Environment, forests and wildlife: Women’s who have contributed to protection and conservation of environment, forests and wildlife.
Sumaira Abdul Lali from Mumbai, Maharashtra: She pioneered and led campaign against the serious health and environmental hazard of noise pollution and brought it into the public consciousness of Mumbai and India.
Rashida Bee from Bohpal, Madhyapradesh : Award Winning and tireless voice of Bohpal Gas victims.
Sports : Women’s who have contributed to society or promoted social issues through achievement in sports Parssa naqvi from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: She succeeded against the odds when she became a professional badminton player. She came across social stigma and traveled alone across countries, and competed with men’s to get hone her craft.
Women in Public Life: Women Achiever in Politics, bureaucracy, governance, administration and local self governance.
Nazneen Ansari from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh: She is a 22 year old Muslim women from an unlettered family of weavers is the first social campaigner who translated Ramayana into Urdu.
Mumtaz Kazi from Mumbai, Maharashtra : She holds Limca book of records for being the first women diesel engine driver, including driving a train.
Azeena Khan from Jaipur, Rajasthan: She is bearer of her family legacy in Rajasthan. She distributes newspapers, continuing her family legacy from the age of 9 riding through the city early morning.
Women’s empowerment: Women who have contributed towards encouraging other women to hold leadership roles and promoting them in decision making.
Begum Shehnaz, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: She has been involved in this field since last 21 years. President of NGO Bazm-e-Khwateen, she has supported women in all frontiers social, economic or legal.
India, December 1, 2015: Despite significant advances over the last decade in science, medicines and the dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS, people in South Asia, one of the world’s poorest regions and home to a quarter of the population, remain particularly vulnerable to the epidemic.
Christians, a small minority in South Asia, are battling HIV with limited resources while poverty, discrimination and lack of funding remain major challenges for church caregivers.
Muslim-majority Pakistan is home to 97,400 HIV patients, according to the government’s National Aids Control Program.
Meanwhile, the nation has seen an 11 percent increase in HIV-related deaths over the last few years, according to local media reports.
More effort is needed to provide treatment and also to overcome discrimination against those infected with HIV in Pakistan, experts say.
Stigma still holds strong
“The stigma still holds strong. Much work needs to be done with regard to awareness about HIV patients,” says Dr. Nabeel Saqib, former Caritas Pakistan national coordinator on health and a World Health Organization official.
Nazir Masih, 52, a Christian, was the first person to be diagnosed with HIV in Pakistan in 1999.
He founded the New Lights AIDS Control Society (NLCS) in 2001 with support from the Global Fund for Aids.
Currently, the NLCS runs three centers in Punjab province, which offer testing and counseling services to 1,200 HIV patients, including 110 children. It also supports the education of 28 children of HIV-affected families.
“Our teams visit each patient every three months to make sure their families are looking after them and that they are taking their pills regularly,” Masih said.
He decried what he called a serious lack of government HIV services and facilities.
The government only has 18 HIV treatment facilities nationwide where just over 5,000 people are receiving vital antiretroviral (ARV) drug therapy, Masih said.
“Untrained doctors have been put in charge of these centers. In one Punjab city, the doctor attends HIV patients only once a week. Hundreds are still waiting”, he told ucanews.com.
Very little is being done to break down the social stigma and prejudices associated with the disease, he said.
“Personally I feel the stigma won’t end. People still call it the disease of bad people and think victims are involved in immoral activities and do not deserve any kind of help. As a result HIV positive people in our country do not admit to having the disease and continue spreading the virus which is dangerous,” Masih said.
Predominantly Hindu India has 2.1 million HIV cases, the third highest in the world, according to a 2014 UNAIDS report.
Caritas sensitizes people about AIDS
Caritas India, the social arm of the Catholic Church in India, is offering services to sensitize people about AIDS in nine districts of the western state of Gujarat. The project is a partnership with the AIDS Control Society of the Gujarat state government under the country’s National AIDS Control Program.
“We counsel people about the causes of the disease and how to prevent it,” Caritas India spokesman Amrit Sangma, told ucanews.com.
He said Caritas has made a special effort in targeting high-risk groups such as sex workers.
Sangma says their efforts have reaped some levels of success.
In Amreli district, sex workers now insist on having safe sex. Also, some believe the risk is too great and have given up sex work, he said.
In Gujarat’s Bhavnagar and Bhanaskantha districts, Caritas was able to reach out to the gay community who, due to social stigma are not easy to approach.
“We had a breakthrough when we counseled one gay man who in turn started counseling other men about the risks of the disease. Hopefully, the risk of contracting the virus has decreased among these men as they have been educated about the dangers of the disease,” he said.
Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, however, remains a low prevalence country where monogamy is promoted religiously and culturally. The nation has 0.1 percent HIV prevalence rate among its total population of 20 million with 167 new cases being detected this year.
Since the first case was registered only 357 people have died as a result of the disease, according to official figures.
However organizations trying to monitor the disease believe there could well be a high number of undetected cases.
Laws against prostitution and social discrimination are major challenges in diagnosing HIV, says Dr. Sisira Liyanage, director of the National STD/AIDS Program.
“I am personally for legalizing prostitution and making sure sex workers are tested periodically,” said Liyanage.
The large number of migrant workers is also a major concern. It’s difficult to gauge how many are being exposed to the disease while working abroad, Liyanage told ucanews.com.
Nonetheless, “HIV risk factors are among younger people but they are less aware of their risk,” Father Tony Martyn, assistant secretary general of the Sri Lankan Catholic bishops’ conference told ucanews.com. “We don’t work directly with people living with HIV but educate our Catholics on the infection. We discuss concerns with catechists to educate children on this particular issue,” he added.
Change in infection trends
Muslim-majority Bangladesh recorded its first HIV case in 1989. According to the Bangladesh Ministry of Health, 3,664 people were living with HIV in the country in 2014. However, the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates the figure at around 9,500. Until now, 472 people have died as a result of the disease.
Despite its low prevalence, Bangladesh remains highly vulnerable to an epidemic due to a change in infection trends and concerns over funding for HIV programs in the future, according to a U.N. expert.
“Over the last 15 years, most cases were among traditional high-risk groups — drug users, male and female sex workers. But in last three-to-four years, we have been observing a transition to what we call low-risk women such as the wives of migrant workers. Most of these infections are from the migrant population either directly or through their spouses,” Dr. Ziya Uddin, an HIV/AIDS specialist with UNICEF told ucanews.com.
Experts find this trend alarming since Bangladesh has about 8 million migrant workers living abroad.
The government runs 20 HIV testing centers where people can be tested for HIV and get drugs easily. However, many people are afraid of using the services because they fear social ostracism.
The Catholic Church has provided services for HIV patients since 2007. Social stigma and discrimination against HIV patients are major challenges, says Dr. Edward Pallab Rozario, head of Caritas Bangladesh Health Project.
“Although HIV positive patients are fewer in Bangladesh, they face stigma and discrimination … Most patients often can’t find jobs,” said Rozario, secretary of Catholic bishops’ Health Commission.
“They [HIV patients] fear that if their friends and relatives know about their disease, they would stop mixing with them and cast them out … They might not get employment, their children might not be allowed to enroll in schools and colleges and they might not be able to marry off their sons and daughters. So, these factors force them to hide the disease,” he said.
Currently, Caritas offers spiritual, financial and counseling support to some 50 Christian HIV patients and their children. The agency also arranges gatherings for Christian HIV patients and runs HIV/AIDS advocacy programs across seven Caritas regional areas in the country.
“We could do many things to tackle HIV, but we don’t have enough funds. At present, Caritas runs a small HIV project and it gets funding from Caritas Bangladesh’s own sources,” Rozario said.
“Twice a year we sit with them to offer spiritual guidelines, counseling and offer a stipend to children of poor patients. We have trained some in handicrafts and running small businesses, so they can survive by utilizing their skills,” he added.
Additional reporting by Kamran Chaudhry in Lahore, Ritu Sharma in New Delhi, Quintus Colombage in Colombo and Stephan Uttom in Dhaka.
Rameshwari, a manual scavenger, rises early each morning to clean waste from people’s latrines.
Along with 30 other women from her locality in northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Ghaziabad district, she is forced to do this degrading job that she inherited from her forebears.
Even though the Indian government passed a bill in 2013 banning manual scavenging, over 1.3 million women still do this work, which requires removing human or animal excreta with a broom and carrying it away in a basket.
“Nobody wants this job but we have no other source of income. Our men drink and gamble and we are left to earn. As we are not accepted in mainstream society, this is the only thing we can do,” Rameshwari told ucanews.com.
Although Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swach Bharat (clean India) campaign and promised to end open-air defecation by constructing toilets across the country, little has changed.
Lakshmi, who goes by one name, told ucanews.com that manual scavengers find it hard to make ends meet as they only earn 20 or 30 rupees (less than 50 US cents) plus a piece of bread from each house that they clean.
“We want to change jobs but, as long as people have these dry latrines, our work remains the same,” she said.
Lakshmi said that the work also leads to various health problems, including eye infections, kidney disease and fever.
That is why Chetnalaya, the social wing of Delhi Archdiocese, constructs low-cost toilets in Bawana on the outskirts of Delhi.
“We have built 300 houses with low-cost toilet facilities for people who used to live on platforms and under bridges. They were given land by the government,” Father Savari Raj, director of Chetnalaya, told ucanews.com.
He said they organize rallies in slums on the outskirts of Delhi and in neighboring Haryana state to spread awareness of the harmful affects of open defecation and the advantages of using a toilet in the home.
According to a recent report by WaterAid, 60.4 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and private toilets.
The report entitled “It’s No Joke: The State of the World’s Toilets,” says that “if you stretched all 774 million people in India now waiting for household toilets, the queue would stretch to the moon — and beyond!”
The result is a health crisis that kills more than 140,000 children under five in India each year. Nearly 40 percent of India’s children are stunted, which will in turn affect both their life chances and the future prosperity of India, the report says.
Sunita of Tilbatta village in Gautam Budh district of Uttar Pradesh rises at 4 a.m. to relieve herself before there is queue for the public toilet.
“There are only two toilets for 10 homes which house 40-50 people. I do not like the public toilet as it is very dirty but we do not have the resources to install one for ourselves,” she said.
Bittu, who lives in the same village, has no access to any toilet so must use the open fields.
“Either we go before sunrise or after sunset as there are men around in the fields during the day,” she said.
Sociologists and experts also feel that the mindset of people also needs to change.
“The toilet problem is a cultural problem,” said B.K. Nagla, head of the sociology department at Maharishi Dayanand University in Rohtak, in northern Haryana state. Even when rural people have toilets in their homes, they often prefer the open fields, he added.
Bhaskar Chatterjee, CEO of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, said all government efforts would be in vain if the toilets they aim to construct were of bad quality.
There are 170,000 public toilets in India that cannot be used, he lamented.
“What is the point of making toilets which have no doors, windows and water connection,” he asked.
Kathmandu, December 02, 2015: The government of Nepal has decided to ban 14 Indian schools that operate on its territory without valid certification. Some analysts believe that the initiative is a reaction to the Indian embargo on goods exported, which continues to affect the lives of the Nepalese population.
According to the Ministry of Education, in Nepal there are at least 14 schools run by the Indian Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), that are ”illegal” under the laws of the country. Sarswati Pokhrel, ministry spokesman, said: “These schools are associated with CBSE but have no legal mandate because the institution does not respect the laws of Nepal. We asked them several times to follow our procedures, but they did not listen. We cannot operate illegal schools that could ruin the future of hundreds of students”.
The spokesman added: “Each school that has ties with foreign countries must have the approval of the Ministry of Education of Nepal. This defines the criteria and documents required to be submitted, but these schools were reluctant to produce them, perhaps because they do not possess them. So we will not allow any school to operate illegally against the law. Not only are they banned, but their association to the concerned country has been cancelled”.
Some analysts argue that the decision to ban Indian schools is a reaction to the undeclared embargo that India has imposed on Nepal since it adopted its first secular constitution. It would therefore be an initiative against the claim of domination by India. Professor Bidhanath Koirala said: “The government should have transferred students to other schools, before adopting the measure. Now it threatens the future of hundreds of students”.
The climate of tension between the two countries has also affected the work of Parliament which yesterday suspended the session after derogatory chants sung by the Nepal Workers Party. Its members demanded the expulsion of the Indian Ranjit Rae.
“Nothing has been done until now by police and we know nothing will happen. We go ahead and pray for peace,” said Jose Victoria, a parishioner of St. Sebastian Church in Dilshad Garden. The parish church in eastern New Delhi was burnt down on Nov. 30, 2014.
Father Anthony Francis told ucanews.com that police are not looking to see if Hindu hardliners were involved in burning the church. No one has been arrested in connection with this incident.
A series of similar incidents followed in the next two months.
A stone was thrown through a window of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Jasola while Mass was being celebrated Dec. 8. Police dismissed the incident as being caused by children playing in the street.
A minor fire broke out in a Nativity display at Resurrection church in Rohini on Jan. 5. Police say it was due to an electric short circuit, but church officials said it was an arson attempt. Police have yet to take any action.
A Marian grotto at Our Lady of Graces Church in Vikaspuri was vandalized Jan. 15. St. Aphonsa’s Church was desecrated in South Delhi in February. Attackers wrecked the church gate, entered the sacristy, broke open the tabernacle and scattered the Eucharist.
“The overall approach of police has been very weak and does not seem to show any great commitment when it comes to probing these incidents,” Father Savari Muthu, spokesman for the Delhi Archdiocese told ucanews.com.
Police were supposed to file a report within two months of the burning down of St. Sebastian Church but even after one year nothing has been revealed or anyone arrested, he said, adding that police have increased security around the churches after that incident.
The Hindu hard-line group Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh had earlier this month described the attack on churches and Christians as “petty crimes.”
Since May 2014 when the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janta Party won a landslide in national elections, Christian leaders have complained of attacks on churches.
They see an attitude change among political leadership that shows genuine concern over attacks on the minority community because of its indifference and silence.
The party is widely seen as the political wing of Hindu groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which critics say are working to turn India into a Hindu theocratic nation.
According to the 2011 Census report, Christians constitute 130,000 in Delhi, which has a population of 17 million.