IMC-USA Weekly News Digest – January 12th, 2009

COMMUNAL HARMONY

COMMUNAL HARMONY IN HAVERI (JAN 7, 2009, TIMES OF INDIA)

In these days, when religion has been reduced to online anointing of gods, a mechanical prayer, or at worst, a catalyst sparking clashes between two communities, Haveri presents a rare example. Though many in Haveri fail to regularly visit temples and mutts, they do participate in Muharram, irrespective of caste and creed.

The Muharram procession begins from different places of the town, and converges near the Subhash Circle. But before reaching the Circle, all the ‘taboots’ reach Shettar street, stand there for a few minutes and the first prayer of Muharram is chanted by Hindus, according to 82-year-old Somanna Anurshettar.

This has been the practice since time immemorial and one of the reasons for the peaceful existence between Hindus and Muslims here, he said. During the British rule in 1942, there was one major Hindu-Muslim clash, but ever since then, such an event has not happened in Haveri, Somanna added.

Guruhazzarat Mehboob Subhani Muharram committee president Khaleel Ahmed Patawegar and Anjuman committee of Haveri taluk’s Imam Jafarkhan Pathan said that, along with Muslims, Hindus also participate in our prayers. They believe that "God is one, only the names are different". Muharram is celebrated on Thursday in Shiggaon, Savanur, Hirekerur, Byadagi, Ranebennur and Hanagal taluks, but in Haveri, it is celebrated on Friday, Pathan said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/3947805.cms

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SEMINAR ON TERROR, COMMUNALISM AND ROLE OF CIVIC SOCIETY (JAN 5, 2009, TIMES OF INDIA)

Positive exchanges among youth from across religions could play a pivotal role in establishing communal harmony in the country. As building blocks of the nation, the youth have the responsibility of building a culture against communalism and terrorism, B K Chandrashekhar, former Speaker of the Karnataka legislative council, said on Sunday. He was speaking at a day-long seminar on ‘Terrorism, communalism and the role of civic society’. "They are the building blocks of a nation. So they should establish social relationship with youths of other religions. They can also persuade others to express their sentiments through peaceful agitation instead of violence," he said.

The seminar was organized by the Karnataka chapter of the Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity (FDCA), to condemn communalism and terrorism at all levels in India. G K Govind Rao, working president of FDCA, said the seminar was aimed at motivating students to play their role in society, apart from responding to terrorism and other social issues. It was an effort to make people aware of the importance of secularism, especially in a pluralistic society like ours, Sheena Mohsin, secretary of FDCA, said.

Ambrose Pinto, principal of St Joseph’s College, called poverty "the root cause" of terrorism. The other reasons, according to him, are that people do not change their spaces – mental or physical – to understand reality. "They become fixated and promote intolerence which, in turn, leads to violence," he said. Jnanpith awardee U R Ananthamurthy condemned the concept of the majoritarian state. "Governments should not only work for the majority who elected them, but for the rest as well, who opposed them. Espousing the cause of the majority only is against the spirit of our Constitution," he said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/3934769.cms

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NEWS HEADLINES

2 KILLED, 10 HURT IN ASSAM BLAST (JAN 9, 2009, HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Two persons were killed and 10 injured when suspected activists of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) triggered a blast at Shuttle Gate bazaar in the Maligaon area of western Guwahati on Friday evening. The bazaar is about 100 metres from the headquarters of the Northeast Frontier Railway. The police suspect Ulfa to be behind the blast. The explosion took place a day after the police and Army in a joint operation gunned down Pranjal Deka alias Biju Sarania at Halikuchi village in the Kamrup district in central Assam. Deka was the prime suspect in the January 1 blasts in three places in Guwahati in which five persons were killed and 50 injured.

G.P. Singh, Deputy Inspector General of the Central Western Range of the Assam Police, said Friday’s blast was the handiwork of Ulfa militants belonging to the outfit’s 709 Battalion. "The bomb was planted on a bicycle placed between two cars just outside the bazaar. It was an improvised explosive device (IED). The impact of the blast would have been more had it exploded without the cars being on both sides of the bicycle on which the IED was planted. The cars prevented the shrapnel from spreading and claiming more casualties," Singh said.

The police said that a seven-member group of Ulfa sneaked into the city in last week of December. The group had triggered three blasts in three places in Guwahati on January 1. People of Maligaon and its adjoining areas were angry at the police for their absence in the Shuttle Gate bazaar area on Friday evening.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print.aspx?Id=6ed7d570-fb37-4909-972e-74b99bb8b7a9

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RAJASTHAN GOVERNORS RSS REMARK SPARKS UPROAR (JAN 7, 2009, THE HINDU)

The proceedings in the Rajasthan Assembly were stalled on Tuesday with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party taking strong exception to the recent controversial remarks of Governor S. K. Singh accusing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of having a "direct role" in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Mr. Singh stated at a seminar on "Gandhi in times of terror" here on Sunday that though terror had failed to scare Gandhiji, the Mahatma himself fell prey to it. He said Nathuram Godse, an RSS member, killed Gandhiji because he was in favour of providing Rs.85 crore to Pakistan at the time of Partition. Infuriated at the charge, the BJP MLAs disrupted the proceedings as soon as the House met on Tuesday and created an uproar demanding immediate dismissal of Mr. Singh. Loud slogans such as "Vande Mataram", "Sack the Governor" and "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" rent the air.

Speaker Dipendra Singh Shekhawat’s repeated pleas that the Governor’s conduct could not be discussed in the House failed to cut ice with the BJP, which charged that Mr. Singh had distorted historic facts and wrongly tried to link RSS with Mahatma Gandhi’s murder. BJP MLA Jaswant Singh Yadav raised the issue as soon as Question Hour started and remarked that Mr. Singh "seems to have lost his mental balance". To this, the treasury members protested and said the BJP was perturbed by the allegations of former Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat about the sale of tickets in its camp during the Rajasthan Assembly elections. Debate on Governor

BJP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari claimed that the conduct of the then Governor, Sampurnanand (1962-1967), was discussed in the State Assembly and a committee was appointed to examine if a privilege motion against him was maintainable. The Leader of the Opposition, former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, said the Governor, as the highest Constitutional functionary in the State, should have refrained from making controversial remarks and cited a Supreme Court judgment of 2006 in Rameshwar Prasad vs. Union of India to support her contention that the Governor should not politicise his office. "The Sarkaria Commission too has observed that the Governors should show sincerity and sagacity in their conduct and should not serve the political interests of any party," said Ms. Raje, adding that two judicial inquiries had proved that RSS had no role in the assassination of the Father of the Nation.

The Speaker, who ruled that the Assembly could not hold any debate or discussion on the Governor’s remarks or conduct, adjourned the House thrice after failing to control the BJP MLAs. The business of tabling notifications and introduction of the motion of thanks on the Governor’s address was conducted amid pandemonium before the House was adjourned for the day. Mr. Singh, known for his political comments, has not been on good terms with the BJP after he held up a Bill passed in the Assembly during the previous regime providing for reservation to Gujjars and creating a new economic backward class in the State.

http://www.hindu.com/2009/01/07/stories/2009010757810700.htm

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SHEKHAWAT CHALLENGES ADVANIS PROJECTION AS PM CANDIDATE (JAN 9, 2009, TIMES OF INDIA)

In a big blow to BJP at a time when the party is trying to gear up for Lok Sabha elections, party veteran Bhairon Singh Shekhawat on Thursday sharpened his challenge by presenting himself a rival to L K Advani’s projection as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. The former vice-president, who had travelled to Delhi from Jaipur, fired his salvos at a press conference at his residence here despite BJP chief Rajnath Singh having clearly indicated that Shekhawat’s bid to enter the poll race was not in sync with the party’s views. "Advaniji may be the PM candidate, but others too can contest Lok Sabha polls. He is not the only one contesting elections," he told reporters, also asserting that he was the "senior-most" when asked about his opinion on Advani being the PM-in-waiting.

When asked about other leaders in BJP like Rajnath Singh and Jaswant Singh, Shekhawat said "But age-wise I am the seniormost," adding he would contest LS elections if his health permits. On whether the party took a hasty decision in nominating Advani as its PM candidate, he said, "The party is free to take a decision in this regard." His almost dismissive comments made it evident that he does not see the matter as closed and the BJP veteran’s repeated claims that he is no longer a party member do not seem to have convinced any one. When asked if he had congratulated Advani when the latter was nominated as BJP’s PM candidate, he revealingly replied that "I did not even know."

Shekhawat, who served as chief minister of Rajasthan decades ago, was most scathing against BJP leader and former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. He confirmed he had written a letter to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to probe all charges of corruption – said to be to the tune of Rs 22,000 crore – against Raje’s government. On Thursday, party leaders failed to douse the Shekhawat fire, as Jaswant Singh and Rajnath Singh tried to cap the damage. With Rajnath Singh himself coming for some swipes from the former vice-president, no peace was likely. Stepping up his attack on BJP, that started with former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje three days ago in Rajasthan, Shekhawat on Thursday said he was the "seniormost" among the saffron leaders – including Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani – and hence has kept his options open on pitching for the top post.

Shekhawat declared he would contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, lashed out at Rajnath Singh for his remarks that somebody who has held a constitutional post should not enter the electoral fray. Opening up the question on BJP’s PM candidate, a year after Advani’s name was announced by the party and endorsed by the NDA, Shekhawat told reporters that even Vajpayee should contest if his health improves. Asked whether he could also be an ideal prime ministerial candidate as he has served as vice-president, Shekhawat diplomatically quipped, "How can I say this on my own? It is for you all to say. If there is any such law I will take advantage of that." Hitting out at the BJP chief, Shekhawat said, "Rajnath was not even born when I came into politics. It will take time for him to understand BJP," adding, "Who will follow his orders."

On Rajnath Singh’s comment that those who have taken a dip in the Ganga should not bathe on wells, the former vice-president said, "I have taken a dip in the Ganga several times and I have also bathed on wells." However, Shekhawat’s comments were laced with clarifications that he had no differences with Advani. "Neither can I be against Advani nor can he be against me," he said. Showing his photograph with Vajpayee and Advani, he said, "Since 1952, we have worked together not as party workers but one family