Margshirsha 1, 2065 Vik Samvat, Yugabda 5110, November 16, 2008

1. FESTIVALS: Gita Jayanti is celebrated throughout Bharat and other parts of the world on eleventh day (Ekadashi) of the bright half of Margashirsha falling on 8 December this year. It was on this day that Sanjaya narrated the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna to King Dhritarashtra, and thus made the glorious teachings of the Lord available to us, and to people of the world, for all time. Gita Jayanti marks one of the greatest days in the history of mankind. "Be ye all ever merged in the eternal unbroken continuous consciousness of the Supreme Truth", is the sublime message that Gita elaborates and presents in all pervasive and in a universally accepted form.
2. CHANDRAYAAN-1 SENDS PICTURES: Bharat's unmanned moon mission Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has beamed two pictures that display many large and small craters on the moon surface.
The pictures taken by the spacecraft's Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) on November 15 over the polar region of the moon shows many large and small craters, ISRO sources said. Another picture sent by TMC has filmed the bright terrain on the lower left of the rim of 117 km wide moretus crater and the equatorial region of the moon. The picture shows the uneven surface of the moon with numerous craters. On the lower left, part of the Torricelli crater is seen.
3. PARIVAR RALLIES AGAINST 'UPA PLOT': The Sangh Parivar on November 16 openly came out in support of the Malegaon blast accused, calling investigation into the September 29 blast a "political conspiracy". It also announced the launch of a mass campaign against the UPA for its "vilification of Hindu saints and army officers in the name of Hindu terrorism".
The stand was finalised at a conclave in Panipat which was attended by 13 akharas — sects of sadhus — who are to launch a mass mobilisation campaign against the "anti-Hindu conspiracy" on November 26 in New Delhi.
The campaign is to be conducted under the banner of Dharm Sanrakshan Samiti and will feature 250 'saints' from the akharas. Those at the meeting included Baba Ramdev, Swami Hans Das of Akhara Parishad and VHP's Praveen Togadia.
4. HINDU SAMAJ WON'T TOLERATE FALSE ALLEGATIONS AND AFFRONT TO SAINTS: "Jihadi terrorism has not only spread its wings from Gujarat to Assam and from Jammu to Tamil Nadu & Coimbatore, but also has taken the whole of Bharat into its grip. Hundreds of bomb explosions and thousands of innocent deaths bear testimony to it", said Ashok Singhal, International President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, at Allahabad on 12th November.
He said that in order to divert attention of the society from the bitter truth, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has started a campaign to implicate Hindu Saints and organisations in different cases and humiliate them, although they have even remotely no connection with such activities. To subject Sadhvi Pragye to Narco test four times is only to torment her into submission and speak out what they want.
5. BHARATIYA NAVY FOILS BID TO HIJACK INDIAN SHIP IN GULF OF ADEN: Navy prevented the hijack of a Bharatiya merchant ship on the high seas in the Gulf of Aden on 11 Nov. An armed helicopter on board the INS Tabar, patrolling the area, flew marine commandos to the ship, which the pirates had attacked. The pirates abandoned their attempt to board m.v. Jag Arnav, following intervention by the commandos.
The hijack bid took place when the 38,265-tonne bulk carrier, owned by the Great Eastern Shipping Company, was sailing 60 nautical miles east of Aden. The INS Tabar was then 25 nautical miles away from the spot.
The Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden from October 23. A naval ship, with a contingent of marine commandos and helicopters on board, has been sent to the port of Salalah in southern Oman.
6. COURAGE UNDER FIRE: Chhattisgarh votes against Maoists: The people of Chhattisgarh deserve to be saluted. Close to 60 per cent of voters turned up in polling booths for the first phase of the State’s Assembly election, rejecting Maoist calls for a boycott. Just how much the Left-wing insurrectionists care for the people was obvious when the Maoists went about attempting to sabotage and cripple the election process. Two landmine attacks in thickly-forested Dantewada district — today, the capital of India’s Maoist insurgency — were accompanied by an ambush of an Election Commission team. As many as 21 electronic voting machines were destroyed or taken away and a CRPF jawan was killed by a sniper. In Bastar, an Indian Air Force helicopter was fired upon by light-machine guns just as it was taking off, killing an IAF sergeant — who got a bullet in his head — and grievously injuring the pilot. With six of every 10 voters insisting on having their say, and keeping their five-yearly tryst with popular sovereignty, the Maoists have ended up as massive losers. The two security personnel they killed will go down as martyrs for democracy. -- Excerpts from The Pioneer Editorial 17 Nov 2008.
7. PEACE VOTE: 64% turnout in first phase of J&K polls: Despite the snow and chill and a dark political backdrop created by the Amarnath Shrine controversy, Kashmiris came out overshelmingly in the three Valley constituencies that went to polls in the first phase of the staggered assembly elections.
Chief electoral officer B R Sharma put the overall turnout of 63.75% for the 10 constituencies that voted on November 17. "The polling has been by and large peaceful", said Sharma. He said Valley's Gurez, Sonawari and Bandipora recorded 75%, 47% and 58% voting respectively. Voting is spread over seven phases.
8. NEW SUPERSONIC MISSILE 'SHOURYA' TEST-FIRED: Bharat on November 11 successfully test-fired a new nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile that can also be launched from an attack-proof underground silo and is meant to give the Bharatiya Army a credible second-strike capability, an official said.
"The test was successful," said an official of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), that has developed the missile. It is capable of hitting targets 600 kilometres away.
Bharat has already deployed land and naval variants of the Bharat-Russian Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, but the new missile 'Shaurya' is indigenous.
9. MESSAGE OF CONGRATULATION ON CHANDRAYAN BY ATAL BEHARI VAJPAYEE: “I offer my hearty congratulations to Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO, and other scientists and engineers working on this mission on this historic success. They have worked relentlessly and with commendable fortitude to place a Bharatiya spacecraft, carrying the tricolour, on the trajectory to the moon."
10. GANGA DECLARED NATIONAL RIVER: More than two decades after Rajiv Gandhi conceptualised the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Nov 4 decided to declare Ganga a ‘National River’ to achieve the objectives of the clean-up operation. The decision was taken during a review of the Ganga Action Plan by the Prime Minister.
The meeting also decided to set up a Ganga River Basin Authority, which will be entrusted with the responsibility of planning, implementing and monitoring projects regarding the river. The authority, headed by the Prime Minister, would comprise of chief ministers of states through which the Ganga flows.
11. PROTEST AGAINST BAN ON HINDRAF AT MALAYSIA HC: Federation of Human Rights Organisation of India (FHROI) organised a demonstration on 13th November at High Commission of Malaysia, New Delhi to potest the ban imposed on Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) by the Government of Malaysia. Prominent personalities from different organizations and groups under the banner of FHROI gathered at Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delh. The delegation of representatives of various Human Rights, Civil rights organizations peacefully marched towards Malaysian High Commission and handed over a memorandum to Malaysian High Commissioner.
12. MERGER ANNIVERSARY OF J&K IN BHARAT: The Advocate Council of Jammu & Kashmir organised a seminar on the occasion of Merger on 8th November 2008. Social activist Daya Sagar elaborated the process of merger in 1947. Sunil Sethi, President Bar Association termed it as a sensitive matter and said that his family was the eye-witness of the event. Renowned journalist Swapan Das Gupta regretted that the Pakistan occupied Kashmir could not come to Bharatiya side due to internationalization of dispute by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru.
13. BUDDHISTS PRAY IN BODH GAYA FOR WORLD PEACE: A group of Buddhist monks in Bodh Gaya conducted prayers for the world peace on November 2 in a special annual ceremony, which was attended by about 100 visiting Buddhist devotees from Thailand. Monks chanted Mantras to seek peace across the world at the ceremony called 'Kathin Cheeva Daan'.
The occasion also drew attraction of the devotees when monks created a tall Lord Buddha statue in just 12 hours time from dawn to dusk.
14. TRIPURA CELEBRATES LORD KRISHNA’S “RAAS LILA”: Thousands of Hindu Manipuris celebrated “Maha Raas”, a festival celebrating the love life of Lord Krishna, in Agartala.
The festival is celebrated every year on the full moon night of “Kartik Purnima” in “Kartik” to mark Krishna’s love for Radha. Girls in their traditional dresses danced round the idols of Lord Krishna and Radha. Acting as Gopies they sang devotional songs throughout the night at a local temple.
The Maha Raas celebration started in Tripura more than two century ago.
This is the 211th year of celebration of Raas a festival of particularly the Hindu Manipuris but today both Bengalis and even the tribal population of the state forgetting their religious and cultural identity participate in the nightlong celebration.
15. SIKH DEVOTEES GO TO PAKISTAN: Nearly 3,645 Sikh devotees on November 12 went to Pakistan ON BOARD three special trains provided by Pakistan Govt to facilitate the devotees to observe the birth anniversary of founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanak Dev.
Gurdwara Nankana Sahib is the birth place of Guru Nanak Dev and every year Sikhs from all over Bharat, foreign countries including America, England, Germany and Switzerland reach Pakistan to participate in the religious ceremony.
16. DIGAMBER JAINS IN GOA: Digamber Jains of Goa organised a one-day religious meet in the recently completed and opened Adhinath temple in Mugali. The temple wore a festive look throughout the day. There was singing, chanting and philosophical discourses delivered by guest faculties invited from the Jain community living outside Goa. For the first time in Goa, Jain monk Sagarji Maharaj was for four months in Adinath temple to observe the holy ritual of Chaturmas Vrat.
17. YOUNGEST KING OF THE NEWEST DEMOCRACY CROWNED: Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck became the world's youngest reigning monarch and head of the newest democracy after he was crowned with Bhutan's Raven Crown at an ornate coronation ceremony in Thimpu.
Jigme Khesar is the eldest son of former Bhutanese king, by his third wife Ashi Tshering Yangdon. The coronation ceremony was attened by a host of foreign dignitaries, including President Pratibha Patil and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The ceremony with Buddhist rituals was followed by felicitations in the afternoon by more than 20,000 people at Tendrel Thang, the ceremonial ground in Thimphu.
18. BHARAT RATNA TO PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI: Pandit Bhimsen Joshi has been chosen for Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian honour. The legendary exponent of the Kirana Gharana is known for his robust style, mellifluous voice, dazzling 'taans' which race across three and a half 'saptaks' and an incredible breath-control.
19. WORLD’S 2ND LARGEST AIRPORT TERMINAL COMING UP IN DELHI: The Terminal-3 or T3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport expected to be completed by March 2010, ahead of the Commonwealth Games would be the second largest after the new terminal at the Beijing airport, constructed before the recent Olympics, which has a total floor area of 9,86,000 square metres. The terminal building alone will come up on 20 acres of land, with the entire seven-storey structure providing a total space of about 5,20,000 square metres and having a capacity of handling 34 million passengers a year.
20. 7 BHARATIYAS IN INFLUENTIAL TELE LEADERS: As many as seven Bharatiyas, including Srinath N of Tata Communications and Sunil Bharti Mittal of Bharti Enterprises have made it to the list of world's 100 most influential telecom leaders, in the list complied by Global Telecom Business.
Tata Communications chief executive Srinath Narasimhan 8th position in the list. Google chairman Eric Schimdt is on top with technology major Apple chief Steve Jobs on the second and China's minister of industry Li Yizhong on third position.
Bharti Enterprises CEO and group chairman Sunil Mittal is ranked at the 35th place, while Bharti Airtel chief executive Manoj Kohli is placed at the 39th position. Other Bharatiyas in the list include Motorola Mobile Services Division CEO Sanjay Jha (41), Sanjiv Ahuja who is the chief of Augere (45), Tata Communications president of global data and mobility solutions Vinod Kumar (68), former Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin (71).
21. ARUNACHAL BOUNDARY IS ILLEGAL, ANGRY CHINA TELLS BHARAT: China on 11 Nov angrily rejected Bharat's assertion that Arunachal Pradesh is its integral part, insisting that Beijing never recognised the ‘illegal’ McMahon Line and that the status of the border state was ‘never officially demarcated’.
Deeply regretting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement that Arunachal Pradesh was part of Bharat, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said New Delhi has not taken into account the ‘historical facts’.
22. GORAKSHA DELHI: In a huge rally in Delhi, many prominent people paid their homage to Swami Lakmananandji of Orissa on November 7, and reiterated the pledge to work for Cow protection. The speakers demanded that not only the murderers, but the real conspirators behind the murder of Swami Laxmanandji should be arrested.
On this day, in 1966 police had fired on thousands of Sadhus who had gathered from all over Bharat for the demand of cow protection in which many Sadhus were martyred.
RSS Sarsanghchalak P.P. Shri K S Sudarshan explained various dimensions of cow protection movement, ranging from its importance in organic farming to the various experiments done all over Bharat for various therapeutic uses of cow related products.
Dr. Pravinbhai Togadia, General Secretary, Vishwa Hindu Parishad drew attention to the fact that the murderers of the Swami Laxmananandji and the conspirators behind his murder are still roaming free.
23. LEARN TO WORK IN A TEAM - MADAN DASJI AT SURYA FOUNDATION TRAINING CAMP: Surya Foundation recentely organised a training camp for 1000 teachers of Ideal Village Project in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. RSS Sahsarkaryavah Ma. Madan Das, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Dr. Raman Singh, VHP working president S. Vedantam, Joint Secretary, VHP Balkrishna Naik, and other prominent personalities attended the concluding ceremony of the camp. Ma. Madan Das said the team work and cooperation displayed by the youth of Surya Foundation are the need of the hour to build the nation.
24. DATTOPANT THENGADI MEMORIAL LECTURE: "The results of exploiting the nature are always disastrous. Nature punishes if it is tourtured beyond limits. Thengadiji was against senseless exploitation of the nature. What we all materialists call progress is not development. Until we decide the limit of consumption the situation would remain unchanged", said senior BJP leader and former Union HRD Minister Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi speaking at Dattopant Thengadi Memorial lecture in New Delhi on November 10, his 89th birth anniversary. The lecture was organised by Swadeshi Vichar Mendra, a unit of Swadeshi Jagran Manch.
Saroj Mitra, national convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), former chairman of PHD Chambers of Commerce Shri Ravi Wig were also present on the occasion.
25. SRI LANKAN GOVERNMENT INVITES GKPP TO TRAIN POOJARIS: A team of office bearers of Gram Kovil Poojari Peravai (GKPP), a project of VHP, led by RBVS Manian, a trustee of GKPP and vice president of VHP, Tamil Nadu, left for Colombo on November 1 for a two week camp. The two other members of the team are A.K. Soundararajan, state convenor of GKPP and A. Jeevanathan, a bhajanist.
In 1999 also, the Peravai conducted two training camps for poojaris at Pandaravilai and Colombo. The Peravai started imparting training to poojaris in Tamil Nadu in 1990. Ever since 1990, nearly 30 camps were conducted in which more than 25,000 poojaris have been trained. The training is imparted to all poojaris irrespective of castes. Most of the poojaris trained by the Peravai are from the most backward and Scheduled Castes
26. SUCCESSFUL COLLEGES BANDH ALL OVER COUNTRY: The problem of Bangladesh infiltrations has been raised as a big challenge for internal security of the nation. In spite of it proved participation in recent bomb-blast, Government is not taking any action just to politicize this issue.
With an intention to create awareness among youth & to pressurise the central government, ABVP has proclaimed for nationwide college-band on November 12. As per figures, 12,685 college, 25,203 high school & coaching institutions were closed throughout the country.
27. NEW WEBSITE OF RSS: A new website of Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) was launched at the Akhil Bhartiya Karyakari Mandal meeting held at Vishakhapatnam. The site has the collection of important documents, photos and videos including Sarsanghchalak's Vijayadashami speech and the resolutions passed at the Karyakari Mandal meeting. Under the Sewadarshan, the site portrays various social service works done by the organizations associated with Sewa Bharati.
28. DIASPORA ATTEMPTS TO SPREAD GURU NANAK’S MESSAGE IN US SCHOOLS: On the occasion of 539th birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev, a US-based Sikh organization has sent letters for diaspora Sikh parents, along with their children to the schools, so that they can read and share the Sikh guru’s message of universal brotherhood.
“Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), through various mass media, is urging parents, especially of the diaspora, to take an off on Nov 13 and spend the 539th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak with their children narrating them stories about the life and teachings of Guru Nanak,” Rajwant Singh, the Washington-based chairman of SCORE said.
29. INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR CULTURAL STUTIES (ICCS) is organizing 3rd International Conference at Nagpur from 31st January to 5th February 2009 in collaboration with the World Congress of Ethinic Religion (WCER.ORG) and National Council of Mayas, Xincas and Garifuna of Gauatemala and many other organizations on the theme "Renaissance of the Ancient Traditions and Cultures: Challenges and Solutions".
The conference will have ceremonies, paper presentations and workshops and will deliberate on the following chanllenges trying to evolve solutions for benefit of international community:
Peace and Conflict: Race sustainability, Apartheid, Human Rights and Forgotten youth;
Environment: Ecological imbalance, Challenges for Survival of farm land and mining/dams;
Poverty: Religious conversions, Gender issues and Force trades;
Traditions & Religions: Arts, Dance, Music and Alternative healing practices.
ICCS is also organizing post conference tour for delegates.
Delegates from more than 50 countries are expected to participate in the conference.
Those desirous to participate are requested to register and to send their abstract of papers (hard and soft copy) with their activity theme (ceremonies & cultural performance). Further details can be had on the ICCS web address
30. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Smt. & Shri Yoginder Gupta from USA; Ku. Preeti from Netherlands. Pravas: Dr. Shankar Tatwawadi, Samyojak Vishwa Vibhag will tour Myanmar. RSS Sah-bauddhik Pramukh Dattatreya Hosbale is on last leg of his US tour. He is also going to UK after his US tour. Sandeep Paithankar, pracharak, is starting tour of Mauritius.
31. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: There is no use merely saying. "Oh! We have a great culture". What do we know of it? How do we practice it? Do we look at our individual life as an offering to society? Do we feel that we should not merely run after pelf and power but should hold aloft virtues in life? Do we feel that we should really be such men that as soon as anyone looks at us, he must be able to say, "Here is a man, who is seeking perfection in all that goes to make a real human being?" -- Sri Guruji.
The manner of the current investigation by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Mumbai Police into an explosion at Malegaon in Maharashtra on September 30, 2008, which mainly targeted and killed six local Muslims, should be a matter of concern to all right-thinking Indians.
Large sections of the Muslims, the anti-Bharatiya Janata Party political class and the so-called secular elements in the Hindu community, which lose no opportunity to demonise the Hindu nationalists and the BJP in order to win the applause of the minorities and project themselves as liberals, have used the investigation to divert attention away from the hundreds of innocent civilians killed by the jihadi terrorists, many of them trained and assisted by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh and inspired by the pan-Islamic ideology of Al Qaeda and its International Islamic Front.
They look upon the leaks from the ATS — many of them based on narco-analysis of dubious investigation and evidentiary value — as a pre-election godsend in their campaign to project the Muslims as more sinned against than sinning and the nationalist-minded Hindus, who call for strong action against the jihadi terrorists, as chauvinists and Fascists.
This, despite the fact that resort to narco-analysis — which was frequently resorted to by Hitler’s Nazis and Stalin’s KGB to obtain confessions from political dissidents — has stood condemned in the rest of the civilised world. Many of the thousands of political dissidents, who were sent to the Gulag and the firing squads by Stalin, were tried and convicted on the basis of narco-analysis.
Narco-analysis has been defined as “the practice of administering barbiturates or certain other chemical substances, most often pentothal sodium, to lower a subject’s inhibitions, in the hope that the subject will more freely share information and feelings”.
The term narco-analysis was coined by Horseley. Narco-analysis first reached the mainstream in 1922, when Robert House, a Texas obstetrician, used the drug scopolamine on two prisoners. Since then narco-testing has become largely discredited in most democratic states, including the United States and Britain. There is a vast body of literature calling into question its ability to yield legal truth. Additionally, narco-analysis has serious legal and ethical implications.
Dr Chandrasekhar, the legendary Indian forensic science expert, who played a highly acclaimed role in the successful investigation and prosecution of the LTTE conspirators involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, has been one of the strongest critics of the police in some States resorting to narco-analysis, which is not a scientific method of investigation. In many countries of the world, narco-analysis is viewed as a political tool and not a scientific tool.
On the basis of statements and remarks made by the suspects under the influence of drugs, which induce a state of semi-consciousness, large sections of the Hindu community have been sought to be demonised, the Army has been unwittingly stigmatised and attention has been sought to be diverted from the investigation into acts of jihadi terrorism and from inquiries to establish the full extent of the so-called Indian Mujahideen iceberg.
It is of great concern that the investigation by the Mumbai ATS — instead of remaining professional and scientific — has taken what large sections of the Hindu majority of this country will view as a politically motivated direction. Some of the media leaks attributed to the Mumbai ATS make one think that the ATS has — wittingly or unwittingly — started playing to the so-called secularists’ gallery.
So many obvious questions, which should have been asked by objective opinion-makers, have not been asked. One of the suspects is alleged to have lent her motorcycle to the perpetrators. Can one think of any instance in the recent history of terrorism in which a terrorist-suspect created evidence against himself or herself by using his or her own vehicle for planting an improvised explosive device?
A private military school, which coaches aspirants to a career in the armed forces, has been sought to be condemned on the ground that some of the suspects held a meeting on its premises. What is important is, what was the purpose of the meeting? Was it to plan specific acts of terrorism or was it merely to discuss how to counter anti-national jihadi terrorism?
Innumerable meetings and seminars are held every year in prestigious training institutions of the Government to discuss, inter alia, appropriate strategies against jihadi terrorism, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Very often, the speakers call for strong retaliatory attacks against the terrorist organisations, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Are they to be viewed as instigators of terrorism? Are our training institutions to be criticised for holding such discussions?
The Mumbai ATS should investigate each aspect thoroughly, but they should do it in a professional manner, not in a manner that adds to suspicions that the inquiry has taken a pre-election political turn — with the objective being to fix the Hindu nationalists and not to fix the terrorists.
I have written and spoken repeatedly about the spreading Muslim anger against what many Muslims look upon as the ‘unfairness’ of the Indian criminal justice system. I have equally written and spoken frequently about the spreading Hindu anger against the Government and the so-called secularists over the failure to act strongly against the jihadi terrorists.
One should be careful to see that the manner of investigation by the ATS does not add to the Hindu anger and lead to a situation similar to what had happened in Northern Ireland where elements from the Protestant community took to arms and terrorism against the Catholics due to perceptions that the Government was not doing enough to protect them from the perpetrators of violence from the Catholic community. -- The Pioneer November 17, 2008
Indian Navy takes on goons of Aden
On November 11 the Indian Navy directly intervened and foiled the attempts of Somali pirates to grab an Indian merchant vessel, Jag Arnav, in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Indian commandos flew out in a helicopter from the naval ship INS Tabar and chased the pirates away. Earlier the same day, these commandos had also thwarted an attack on a Saudi merchant ship. The Indian Navy deserves to be congratulated for expeditiously responding to the distress calls of these ships. Some weeks ago Indian warships had gone to rescue the hijacked Indian merchant vessel, Stolt Valor, though this action had come after much delay and vacillation on part of the Government. Unfortunately, Stolt Valor continues to remain in the hands of the pirates till this day. (It has been got released on November 16.) The Indian Navy has been patrolling the Gulf of Aden since October to protect Indian merchant shipping. The Gulf of Aden is one of the world’s busiest shipping sea lanes; it is also regarded as the world’s most dangerous sea route with pirates armed with deadly weapons ruling the waves. An alternative route for ships would add weeks to travel time and be far too expensive. There is a larger issue involved here. Somali piracy is not only hampering maritime trade; no less worrying is the fact that the ransom sought and secured by the pirates may be funding Islamist terrorism in the region and beyond. Pirates have been attacking ships in these waters for more than a decade. But this year they have increased the frequency of their depredations. According to the International Maritime Bureau, there have been close to 83 attacks on ships and at least 33 of them have been taken over by pirates and their crew held hostage for ransom. While some companies have paid large sums to free their ships and crew, many ships and sailors continue to be held hostage.
Rampant piracy in the Gulf of Aden could be, in part, because of the fact that there is no stable Government in Somalia whose factional leaders have increasingly turned to illicit means to make money to purchase arms. Though the Somalian Government claims that it wants to wage war on the pirates and has authorised foreign Governments to also do the same, this hasn’t helped much. The pirates have been emboldened by a relaxation in the patrolling of the waters by coalition maritime forces that include naval units from France, Germany and the US. These forces were deployed in the region earlier this year to fight piracy. While many countries have agreed to add to the naval presence in the Gulf of Aden to protect shipping, much more will have to be done in order to deal with the problem in a comprehensive manner. -- The Pioneer Edit Desk 13 Nov 08.
Where do India’s various genetic ‘clans’ feature in the extended human family tree? Who colonised India first, millions of years ago? These are big
questions, but we arguably will come closer to the answers this month as the three-year-old global Genographic project has already got under way in Assam. It’s the sixth Indian state to supply DNA samples for the most ambitious anthropological research initiative in history.
A team of Indian scientists led by Professor R M Pitchappan of Madurai Kamraj University has collected 8,000 DNA samples from TN, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa over the past two years. ‘‘We plan to sample nearly 15-20,000 people from 200-250 groups all over India,’’ he says.
It will be a key part of a vast project that seeks to map man’s migratory history as far back as 1,50,000 years. Studies have showed that the human species appeared 2,50,000 years ago in Africa and all of us, Caucasian, Asian or African-Caribbean, evolved from the same number of tribes that migrated out of Africa, says Ajay Royyuru, head of the Computational Biology Research Centre of IBM.
‘‘Till August 2008, over 40,000 samples were collected worldwide,’’ says Royyuru. IBM is collaborating on the $40-million privately-funded project along with the National Geographic Society and Waitt Family Foundation.
Royyuru says, ‘‘More than 2.65 lakh volunteers from over 130 nations have also bought DNA sample kits online.’’ The data is being processed in 10 centres worldwide.
The extracted DNA is analyzed using a standardised set of scientific protocols that identify genetic markers (occasional mutations to DNA passed on down generations through male lineages) on the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA. Different populations carry distinct markers. These markers are used to follow migratory splits of man over time from their common African root.
The India team is actively collecting samples and preliminary findings from these can be expected over the next few months.
Royyuru says the project ‘‘will attempt to collect and analyse samples from over one lakh indigenous people’’. India is an important part of the global genetic jigsaw as it has hundreds of genetic groups, including Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman.
Pitchappan says the Indian team ‘‘undertook an unbiased, random sampling strategy of various populations across India.’’ It used pointers from anthropologists to identify groups from whom samples had to be taken.
Once the samples are collected and analyzed, scientists will be able to draw India’s genetic map. This will help them determine when disparate genetic groups settled in different terrain; where and how various cultures developed and languages grew. ‘‘Once a well-founded scientific explanation for our origin and diversity is available, people will understand the meaning of family, society, nation and life,’’ Pitchappan explains.
But ultimately, says Royyuru, ‘‘We hope the findings underscore how closely related we are to each other as part of the extended human family’’.
Research on the human genome, the complement of genetic material encased in the heart of almost every cell of the body, has already shown that the standard label used to distinguish people by ‘‘race’’ has little or no biological meaning. -- The Times of India, 9 Nov 2008.