1. FESTIVALS: OVER 25L WOMEN TURN OUT FOR KERALA TEMPLE RITUAL: More than 25 lakh women descended on the Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram, on March 9 for the annual 'pongal' ritual at Attukala Devi Temple. The event billed as the largest congregation of women in Asia made it to the Guinness Book of World Records in 1977 with an attendance of 15 lakh. The all-woman affair falls on the penultimate day of the 10-day festival at the temple, also known as the 'Sabarimala' of women as men are a strict no on the ritual day.
"Agar koi Hindu ke khilaf ungali uthaiga, ya sochega ki Hindu kamzor hain…toh main Gita ki kasam khata hoon main unke haat kaat doonga (If anyone raises a finger towards Hindus or if someone thinks that Hindus are weak…then I swear on the Gita that I will cut that hand). -- Varun Gandhi, in a recent speech in Pilibhit.
2. BJP RELEASES IT VISION DOCUMENT: PM aspirant L K Advani has come out with BJP's IT vision document, hoping to cash in on the "connectivity revolution".
By tying its national IT vision to national security, employment, farm productivity, retail, education, medical facilities, health insurance, banking, mobile telephony, IT software, IT hardware, governance and overall transformation, BJP is attempting to reach out to a large electoral pool.
The dream it is selling is of making 21st century a Bharatiya century through creation of productive employment opportunities, accelerated human development through improved and expanded healthcare and education services, arresting corruption and making national security more robust.
Unveiling BJP's IT vision document, Advani said if voted to power, NDA would enact a law to make a multi-purpose national identity card mandatory for every citizen.
3. STUNNING! STEM CELLS FROM ADULT CELLS: It was 'Eureka, we did it too' for a core team of scientists at the well-equipped stem cell research centre, located in Bagayam in Bharat suburban Vellore in north Tamil Nadu. For the first time in India, the scientific team, which began work on generating iPS cells from mice in October 2008, scored a success in February 2009.
Working in labs in the hexagonal building in the quiet mofussil town, scientists experimented with infection-free mice recently acquired from certified labs in the US. Cells extracted from mouse tail tips were grown in a tissue culture plate to obtain adult fibroblasts (cells of tissues that play a vital role in wound healing). The iPS cells appeared 12 to 14 days later and were tested for their embryonic stem cell-like characteristics. The results were more than satisfactory.
The iPS cells have two major applications. First, they can be used to study mechanisms of disease or test drugs and secondly, they can be used to treat diseases without immunological rejection, which is a major problem with embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells taken from other human beings.
4. BHARATIYA MISSILE DEFENSES MATURE: Bharat continues to have success in developing its own anti-missile system. Recently, Bharat conducted its third successful test, intercepting an incoming missile 75 kilometers up. The Bharatiya BMDS (Ballistic Missile Defence System) actually consists of one radar system, and two different missiles. The Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile is used for high altitude interception, while the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) takes care of missiles that make it past PAD, and can deal with targets as high up as 30 kilometers. Bharat has been working on BMDS for a decade, and has bought radar and other technology from Israel. Because of the many successful tests, Bharat expects to deploy the first BMDS batteries next year.
5. BHARATIYA LAWMAKER SUSPENDED BY MALAYSIAN PARLIAMENT: An ethnic Bharatiya lawmaker was on March 16 held guilty of contempt and suspended for a year after he called Malaysia's next prime minister Najib Razak a murderer in connection with the 2006 killing of a Mongolian woman.
Gobind Singh Deo, member of the Opposition party DAP, was suspended from Parliament without allowance and benefits for his remarks which were termed derogatory by a majority of MPs, Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia said.
Singh, whose father Karpal Singh is also an opposition MP, created a stir in the House on March 12 when he launched a tirade against Deputy Prime Minister Razak, who is to become Prime Minister next month.
Deo, a known lawyer, wanted Najib to respond to the opposition accusations that he had a hand in the killing of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu's although the chair had ordered him to stop.
6. NUNS TREATED LIKE SERVANTS BY PRIESTS: CARDINAL: Early last year, a study by the Catholic church found that 25% of the nuns in Kerala were unhappy with life inside the four walls of a convent. More recently, a former nun dropped a bombshell revealing in a book about sexual abuse and mental harassment she suffered in the order. Now,there's further confirmation of their misery and it comes from the leader of India's archbishops.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who is president of Catholic Bishops Council of India, says the nuns are humiliated by priests and they live in fear.
The cardinal's views have appeared in his biography, much like the nun's own. If Sister Jesmi's book was called `Amen! Autobiography of a nun', Vithayathil's book is titled `Straight from the heart'. The cardinal tells his biographer Paul Thelakat, the spokesperson of Syro-Malabar Church, that the time has come to free the nuns from the "pitiable situation'' they are in.
"I would say to a great extent our nuns are not emancipated women. They are often kept under submission by the fear of revenge by priests. That's how the priests get away with whatever humiliation they heap upon them. It is a pitiable situation from which somebody has to liberate them,'' says the 82-year-old cardinal.
"A big complaint of our nuns is that the diocesan priests are treating them like servants, making them wash their clothes, prepare their food, wash the churches, etc and that too without getting paid.
7. HARAPPAN-ERA CEMETERY FOUND: In an extraordinary archaeological finding, a big housing complex that matured during the Harappan era has been discovered in the little known village Farmana about 40 km from Rohtak.
A cemetery belonging to the same civilization which existed about 3500-3000 BC has also been found at an adjacent site, where nearly 70 skeletons have been unearthed so far.
The team of archaeologists from Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto Japan, Deccan College, Pune and Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, discovered the habitation site spread over 18.5 hectare. It has four big complexes and a cemetery spread over about three hectare. The excavations indicate that this region was part of the 5,000 years old Indus Valley culture, considered one of the most advanced urban civilizations in ancient times.
8. TIBET'S 50 YEARS OF BEING TOO PATIENT?: On March 10 every year, the residents of McLeodganj (Upper Dharamshala) wear their finery and head to Tsughlakhang, the temple near the Dalai Lama's house in the middle of a pine forest. After a round of chanting, the Tibetan leader appears on the temple's first floor and addresses the gathering. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Tibetans' failed uprising against the Chinese Army in Lhasa and the Dalai Lama's escape to Bharat. Fifty years is a long time to be patient, so observers believe the Dalai Lama may say something significant this year, thereby giving new direction to the Tibetan movement.
The Dalai Lama is under pressure from November's special conclave of Tibetan representatives held at Dharamshala which put his Middle Way strategy on notice, but he is still preaching patience. On March 10 last year, Lhasa had erupted with monks and ordinary Tibetans coming out on to the streets and clashing with PLA troops.
Wary of bloodshed again, the Dalai Lama used his Losar or Tibetan New Year address of February 24 to ask Tibetans to be patient so that "the precious lives of many Tibetans are not wasted, and they do not have to undergo torture and suffering." But his message was delivered as Tibetans boycotted Losar festivities to protest against last year's Chinese crackdown. "The authorities ordered all shops to be closed on the first day of Losar, but instead of complying with the order, most of the Tibetan shops were open early in the morning," a resident of Kardze in Tibet told Radio Free Asia last week.
Tempers are rising on the Tibetan plateau. Despite China's threat to "wage a people's war" to crush any rebellion, there are protests everyday. In the past few days, monks have taken out protest rallies in parts of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. Last week, a monk in Sichuan tried to burn himself, prompting the Chinese police to shoot at him. Fearing an action replay of last year's unrest, which almost ruined Beijing's Olympics party, China has ensured the largest troop deployment since last year's Sichuan earthquake. Foreigners, including journalists, have been detained.
The Chinese are all set for an ideological assault on the Dalai Lama on March 10 by celebrating it as Serfs Emancipation Day. "There will be no trouble in Tibet. The government has made extensive plans to make sure there is no reccurrence of last year's riots," says Ma Jaili, a senior researcher with the state-run Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing. "Most Tibetans want peace and prosperity. It is only a few mischievous elements misguiding them."
As far as peace goes, the Dalai Lama made it clear on March 6 that he was on the same page as the Chinese. "There is no scope for force, violence or terror for resolution of any issue in this globalized world," he said at a conclave in New Delhi.
Some Tibetan officials believe patience could be their strongest weapon against China. "For the first time, the Chinese economy is facing a crisis. They have used their economy to subjugate Tibet and to influence global opinion. Now, it's a good chance for Tibetans to assert themselves," says an official. In their 50th year in exile, it may be harder than ever before for Tibetans to believe the old proverb 'everything comes to him who waits'.
9. MUSIC AS AN EXPRESSION OF THE DIVINE: Rashtriya Sangeet Utsav in Mysore: A four day- Rashtriya Sangeet Utsav was organised at Nada Mantapa, a palatial super structure dedicated to the cause of music at Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Ashram, Mysore (Karnataka) from 19th to 22nd February, 2009. The event was jointly organised by Sanskar Bharati and Kannada & Cultural Department, Government of Karnataka.
The nadaswaram unfurled the Utsav. Padama Bhushan Dr M Balamuralikrishnan, doyen of Karnataka music inaugurated the Utsav in the divine presence of Ganapati Sachchidananda Swami, Jagadguru Shivaratri Deshkendra Swami, Suttur Math, Mysore and Datta Vijayananda Swami of Datta Peetham. Mohan Bhagwat, Sarkaryavah, RSS, and Yogendra, Sanrakshak, Sanskar Bharati graced the occasion. In his inaugural address, Dr Balamurali Krishnan declared that his aim in life is to establish Bharatiya Sangeet and take it to higher pinnacles of glory.
Mohan Bhagwat, in his address, said that the very purpose of the existence of RSS is to take the nation to pinnacle of glory -- parama vaibhav -- through character building. Bharatiya sangeet is a Bharatiya identity in the entire world. We don't just treat sangeet as a means of entertainment. Sangeet has magnetic property which elicits satyam, shivam and sundaram in man and elevates him to the level of Narayana.
Around 500 delegates from all over Bharat took part in the utsav.
10. FULLY SOLAR-POWERED UP VILLAGE IS BHARAT’S: The sun never sets on Rampura village in Jhansi anymore. The Bundlekhand village is the first in the country to get its solar power plant. It did not have any electricity at all. But now, the kerosene lamps, under which children used to study, have started gathering dust.
The children in the village now study or play under electric lamps in the nights, listen to the radio and watch TV — all because of solar energy. It is an 8.7 kilowatt power plant. Installed at a cost of Rs 31.5 lakh, it provides electricity to all 69 houses in the village. Development Alternatives, a non-profit organisation, in collaboration with Scatec Solar of Norway, gave the village the Community-based Solar Power Plant. Rampura is 17 km from Jhansi.
Norwegian Minister for Environment and International Development Erik Solheim inaugurated the project. Solheim, an Indologist, told the villagers: “Your village draws its name from Lord Rama. And you will fight the demon of darkness (neglect, underdevelopment and backwardness) with the sun.” The plant was inaugurated on January 26.
11. EKAL VIDYALAYA FOUNDATION GETS BVP UTKRISHTATA SAMMAN: Bharat Vikas Parishad honoured the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation with its Utkrishtata Samman for the year 2007-2008 for its excellent services in the empowerment of Vanvasis and villagers. The Samman was presented at the national Governing Body of the Parishad held in Hyderabad on February 14. It was second Samman by the Parishad, which was instituted in the memory of its founding secretary general the late Dr. Suraj Prakash. Vijay Maroo, president of the Foundation accepted the Samman. Subhash Gupta, president of US Chapter of the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation was also present. Standing between Bharat's growth and her becoming a super power is illiteracy at the grass root level. Ekal's mission is to eradicate illiteracy from rural areas, particularly amongst Vanvasis so that the people can have access to primary health, childcare, gainful self-employment and to empower them economically and socially. It is a vision that embraces integrity, determination and commitment with 26724 Ekal Vidyalayas spread all over Bharat as on date.
12. MALAYSIAN INDIAN SPEAKER CAN ENGAGE OWN LAWYER: COURT: Indian origin speaker of Malaysia's Perak State Assembly V Sivakumar Friday won an appeal in court to appoint his own lawyer to fight suits filed by two parties, instead of being represented by the state legal adviser. The Court of Appeal said there "is no provision in any law that the Speaker must be represented by the State legal adviser. (He) is not a State officer or a Government of the State under Section 24(3) of the Government Proceedings Act 1956", the Star newspaper reported.
"We uphold that the speaker is at liberty to engage his own private advocate and solicitor," said Justice Mohammed Raus Sharif who sat with Justices Abdull Hamid Embong and Ahmad Ma'arop. The ruling overturned the orders given by Judicial Commissioner Ridwan Ibrahim March 3, 5 and 11, insisting that Sivakumar could only be represented by Perak State's legal adviser. He said that Sivakumar, as the presiding officer of the Legislature, was "part of the Government". The ruling gives a fresh twist to the ongoing controversy on Sivakumar's action last month of suspending from the legislature Perak Chief Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir and all six of his ministers. Sivakumar wanted his own counsel to represent him in the suit filed against him by the Chief Minister, the Ministers and three independents whom he had expelled.
13. A LESSON IN SAVING JOBS DURING MELTDOWN: Chetana 2009, a state level management festival was held under the auspices of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on February 20, 21, 22 at Osmania University, Hyderabad. About 450 management students across the State from more than 120 colleges attended the event. Saiprasad, State Convener of the Swadesh addressed a seminar on "Our Economic Progress and Globalisation".
Prof. Jayant Kulkarni of Chaitanya Bharathi Institute of Technology in his address exhorted students to follow Swami Vivekananda's teachings. He recalled that we were self-reliant in the past and still we are rich in natural resources and never had to depend on imports.
Prof. Tirupathi Rao vice-chancellor of Osmania University said the rate of savings in Bharat is 30 per cent where as in USA it is only 3 per cent. What is needed; is the efforts to intensify our rate of growth accured from our savings he said. A key requirement of developing knowledge workers, globally in demand, is proficiency in math, science, philosophy and logic. These are the characteristic of Vedic culture and society.
14. DHARMA SABHA BY IVHP IN DELHI: Jains are very much part of Hindu society—Jainacharya Vijay Ratnasunder Surishwar; Leading Jain saint Shri Vijay Ratnasunder Surishwar Maharaj categorically said in New Delhi that the Jains are part and parcel of Hindu society and any move to separate them from the Hindu society would set the disastrous precedent which may even lead to another Division of the nation. He was presiding over a Dharma Sabha in Delhi organised at Mahavir Kendra on March 1. All the speakers and the saints participating in the Sabha stressed the need to warn the political leadership in clear words not to divide the society any more. The Dharma Sabha was organised by Indraprastha Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
15. SWAMI RAMDEV’S AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION: After teaching millions the ‘miraculous powers’ of Yoga, Swami Ramdev has now embarked on a new proj¬ect to bring about krishi kranti (agricultural revolution) in the country and help farmers prosper.
Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industry Subodh Kant Sahai laid the foundation of Patanjali Food and Herbal Park, the ‘biggest such venture in Asia’, at Padaratha, a village 15 km from here on the Haridwar-Laksar Road. One of the 30 mega food parks to be set up in the country under a Union Government scheme, the Park will have a sprawling 1,700 bigha campus with a built-up area of about 20 lakh sq. ft., and an estimat¬ed investment of Rs. 500 crore, Swami Ramdev said. Processing about seven lakh tonnes of raw material fetched from the northern states per year, it would create around 30,000 jobs, he added.
16. THREE-DAY NATIONAL SEMINAR ON HEALTH IN DEHRADUN: "The health policies should be formulated involving the medical experts. The over all objective of any policy should be to extend the benefits to the last person of the society. It is the section of the society about whom everybody talk but nobody does anything. If we have truly to reach this section the campaigns targetting them should be in their own languages or dialects. It could develop a hope for these people,” said RSS Sahsarkaryavah Sureshrao Joshi who is popularly known as Bhaiyaji Joshi. He was inaugurating a three-day seminar on health in Dehradun recently. The seminar had been organised at Forest Research Institute. About 80 health experts from 22 states of the country participated in the seminar. The deliberations were on various aspects of health in 12 sessions. Arogya Bharati, Vishwa Ayurveda Parishad, Ayurveda Vyas Peeth, Jankalyan Samiti and Doctors' Cell of BJP also helped in the seminar.
17. NRIs COMING BACK, 100K OVER THE NEXT 3-5 YEARS: Bharatiyas and Chinese are returning home in droves from US, with over 100,000 each expected to wing back to their home country over the next three to five years. The principal reason for the reverse flight is not US visa restrictions but the enduring lure of family and friends, and new professional opportunities back home. A new study released in Washington recently has several such surprising and unexpected revelations, including the fact that a vast majority of those returning are relatively young — the average age of Bharatiyas was 30, and of Chinese was 33. The majority (89.8% of Bharatiyas and 72.4% of Chinese) were male; most (72.7% of Bharatiyas and 67.1% of Chinese) were married. The study shows that even those who are permanently settled in the US are choosing to return. Among the respondents who have already returned, 26.9% of Bharatiyas and 34% of Chinese held green cards (permanent residency) or US Citizenship.
18. THREE AUTHORS WIN NAVLEKHAN AWARDS: The authors who got the Bharatiya Jnanpith 2008 Navlekhan awards were Hindi language poets Ravikant and Umashanker Chaudhary and novelist Vimal Chandra Pandey.
While Ravikant's Yatra and Chaudhary's `Kehte Hai Tab Shahenshah So Rahe The' got a cash prize of Rs 21,000 each, Pandey's novel Darr got him Rs 25,000.
19. SEEDS OF A QUIET REVOLUTION: Bija Devi had a tough time recently explaining what gehu (wheat) was to a group of German students who had come all the way to her farm to learn about what they thought was a long-lost variety of wheat. Bija Devi’s seed bank at her farm near Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas has over a thousand varieties of ‘lost’ cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables, and over 500 varieties of rice alone, though she’s clueless about their scientific names. Bija Devi has worked as a farmer since she was seven, has never been to school and isn’t sure about her age (she says she is in her early 40s). But she has become a focal point in the field of rescuing and conserving crops and plants that have been sacrificed to modern farming. She began under the guidance of green activist Vandana Shiva, who started a movement across the country to save seeds for future generations. Bija Devi’s work now attracts researchers, students and scientists from all over the world and agricultural universities in the US and Europe send her their students as summer trainees for six months. Her farm is a central seed bank for farmers in 16 states, with 34 similar community seed banks set up across India. “I am no scientist,” she says, “but I know that chemicals and hybrids have harmed the soil to a great extent. But we can still restore fertility and conserve water if we act now.”
20. CHINA HAS CREATED 'HELL ON EARTH' IN TIBET: DALAI: Charging China with launching a "brutal crackdown" in Tibet and creating "hell on earth" there, the Dalai Lama on March 10 asked Beijing to provide "legitimate and meaningful" autonomy for the Himalayan plateau.
China has brought "untold suffering and destruction" to that region by unleashing repressive campaigns, he said in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that led him into exile.
"And quite apart from the current process of Sino- Tibetan dialogue having achieved no concrete result, there has been brutal crackdown on the Tibetan protests that shook the whole of Tibet since March last year," the 73-year-old monk said addressing a gathering in Meceodgant, Upper Dharmashala. The Chinese campaigns "thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth," he said while noting that these had taken the lives of "hundreds of thousands" of Tibetans.
21. BALI TURNS TO YOGA ASANAS: The yoga bug is fast catching on among the people of Indonesia, especially in the island of Bali, who are seeking better health, cure of ailments or beauty through the ancient Bharatiya practice despite the ban on certain elements of yoga. "I have been learning yoga for the past one year at the Bali India Foundation under the aegis of professor Somvir. The benefits have been amazing - I feel good about myself," A.A. Ayu Sri Wariyani Se, a 43-year-old entrepreneur, said. "My son has also started learning yoga now. And I have also turned vegetarian because of this...although I do give in to the temptation of fish at times," she added.
"And it's not just people from one community learning yoga. In the past two years I have trained more than 100 Muslims and students from other communities. We are trying to tell people that yoga is beyond religion...it's just a means to a healthy life."
22. VISHWA MANGAL GO GRAM YATRA: A 108-day Vishwa Mangal Go-Gram Yatra will be flagged off from Kurukshetra on Vijayadashami, September 28, 2009 which will culminate in Nagpur on Makar Sankranti in 2010 after traveling 20 thousand kilometers length and breadth of Bharat. The yatra will pass all the four dhamas, seven pious cities, tweleve Jyotirlingas and almost all the pilgrimage places, rivers and mountain. Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mata Amrutanandmayee, Muni Vidya Sagar ji, Sureshwarji, Jagjit Singh ji, etc are the flag bearers of the yatra. Dr. Pranab Pandya of Gayatri Parivar is the President of the Yatra Samiti and Dr. H.R. Nagendra Vice-Chancellor, Swami Vivekananda Yog University Benguluru is the executive president of the yatra.
23. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Nootan Varsha, Chaitra Shukla 1, Vik. Samvat. 2066 corresponds to. 27th March 2009, Abhinandan to all our Bhaginis/Bandhus around the Globe. Visitors: Smt. Joshna Mamtora and Shri Arjunlal Sharma from UK. Pravas: Dr. Shankarrao Tatwawadi, Samyojak Vishwa Vibhag, returned Bharat from Middle East for Akhil Bharaitya Pratinidhi Sabha baithak and he will tour South Africa in the first week of April.
24. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The work of Sangh transcends narrow personalities, provinces, sects, languages and castes. The Sangh has no place for such different types of parochial loyalties. Its ideal is to bring all the people together on the common basis of love and reverence for the motherland and her culture. -- Shri Guruji.
On November 26, 2008, a group of terrorists originating in Pakistan created absolute havoc in Mumbai, during the course of which at least 177 people died, many were injured and the was city held to ransom for almost three days. We had to deploy the local police, Army, Navy and NSG commandos before all the terrorists were accounted for and normalcy restored. Fourteen policemen and two commandos were killed. One terrorist was arrested because a heroic member of the Maharashtra Police caught hold of him despite himself being fatally wounded.
Pakistan, of course, denied any knowledge of participation in the attack, even going to the extent of saying that the arrested terrorist was not a Pakistani. However, sustained interrogation of the terrorist by the Indian authorities, the FBI, British and Israeli intelligence agencies unravelled the conspiracy and eventually Islamabad had to acknowledge that the attack originated in Pakistan and the conspiracy was hatched in that country. FIRs have been registered in Pakistan and some sort of investigation is under way.
Pakistan has steadfastly refused to extradite to Bharat those suspected of participating in the 26/11 attack or are masterminds of such terrorist activity on a consistent basis. Of course, the US has been pressuring Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice, but it is obvious that Pakistan is dragging its feet.
Pakistan’s ISI and the Army, have actively encouraged organisations whose sole objective is to destabilise neighbouring countries, particularly Bharat and Afghanistan. These organisations are supported by various groups such as LeT, JuD, HuJI, etc, and many of them have been banned by the US. The overt involvement of the Pakistani Government and its covert approval of terrorist operations against India are well documented.
Neither Washington nor London has ever positively responded to our complaints that Pakistan has been subjecting us to a low intensity conflict, the objective of which is to destabilise the Indian state. It took the death of 46 foreigners, including British and American citizens, to convince these countries that India is a victim of Pakistan-conspired terrorism and that Pakistan must be forced to bring the terrorists to book. It is under the sustained pressure from the Western countries that Pakistan had to admit that Ajmal Amir Kasab is a Pakistani national and that the conspiracy against India was planned in Pakistan.
Almost coinciding with Pakistan’s admission three events occurred. The first was a statement by the Pakistani President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, that Pakistan was in grave danger of being over-run by the Taliban. The second was a statement by Gen Pervez Musharraf that there was a conspiracy to run down and blame the Pakistan Army and the ISI as the fountainheads of terrorism. He said that these institutions and instruments of the state would result in the Taliban and Al Qaeda taking over the country. The third event was a statement by Mr Richard Holbrooke, the American special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Speaking in New Delhi, he said that the Taliban was a threat equally to India, Pakistan and the US and must be faced jointly.
How does one interpret these statements? The Pakistanis have been crying themselves hoarse that they are a victim of terrorism and that India instead of pressurising Pakistan after the 26/11 attack should extend cooperation in tackling the Taliban. As proof they pointed out that in the Swat Valley the Pakistani Government has had to make a compromise with the Taliban, which is virtually surrendering to extremism. The red herring drawn by the Pakistanis across the terrorist trail is that if India insists on action by Pakistan against the perpetrators of 26/11, then the Pakistani Government will become weak, the Taliban will take over Pakistan and India will have to face an implacable enemy.
Let us take the specific case of the Swat Valley. This is a part of the Provincially-Administered Tribal Area of NWFP, watered by the Swat river, which joins the Kabul River near Charsadda and the Indus at Attock. The easternmost part of northern NWFP consists of Buner, the western portion is Swat and the central portion of which goes up to the Afghanistan border is Mohmand, Bajawar and Jandol. The eastern part of this region is the Mahabun Hills, which became the stronghold of the extreme Wahabi Hindustani Fanatics whose origin lay in Patna. The British mounted a number of expeditions to eliminate the fanatics and in this process came into open conflict with people of Swat and Buner. 1858, 1871,1881, 1888 and 1891 were crucial years and in 1897 Mullah Sadullah raised the banner of revolt in the Swat Valley. The British raised the Malakand Field Force in order to restore peace in this region. Simultaneously, the Tirah Expeditionary Force was launched into the southern part of NWFP bordering the Safed Koh Mountains in Afghanistan. This was the first force to fully penetrate into and dominate Tirah. Almost every year, especially in 1919, this entire region, including Swat, was in turmoil and the British had to intervene from time to time with force. Unrest in this region, therefore, is not a new phenomenon, nor do compromises there indicate that Pakistan has surrendered to the extremists and that the Taliban is about to take over the whole country.
India and its friends must firmly reject any suggestion of Pakistan that 26/11 should be linked with events in Swat and Waziristan. Pakistan cannot be let off the hook under the excuse that this would encourage the Taliban. If it does, so what? It matters little to us whether Mr Zardari rules Pakistan, or Gen Musharraf, or the Taliban. Every Pakistani regime has encouraged anti-Indian activities and we have been able to neutralise most of them. If the Taliban comes to power we can neutralise them also, so why should we help Pakistan to keep them at bay? Our message to Pakistan has to be loud and clear: Keep your extremist elements under control, ensure that they do not launch attacks against India from Pakistan territory and bring to book to the perpetrators of 26/11. As for the rest, that is internal affair of Pakistan and if it weakens that country and its Government, that is no skin off our nose. -- The Pioneer, 17 March 2009.
By issuing an executive order on March 9, Obama has reversed George W Bush’s policy that no federal funding would be available to promote research in human embryonic stem cells.
Will the US Congress now allow taxpayers’ money to be used for human embryo experiments involving their creation and destruction, overturning the legislative ban it has been renewing every year since 1996?
Stem cells are undefined cells present in adults; they are also found in abundance in embryos and umbilical cord blood. Though all stem cells have the potential to heal — because they can be coaxed to grow into specific kinds of tissues or organs with cloning technology — it is embryonic stem cells that have greater potential on account of their ability to grow into virtually any body part.
That’s why researchers prefer to work with embryonic stem cells that have greater scope than adult stem cells with their limitations. Stem cells hold the potential to cure leukaemia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord and cardiac diseases and others that leave patients either severely crippled or prove fatal.
Embryonic stem cells are controversial because the embryos are discarded once the cells are extracted from them. Critics object to creation of embryos for the purpose of harvesting their cells. However, given the growth of infertility treatments and with more people opting for assisted reproductive techniques, fertility clinics end up with more embryos than they require. Researchers are sourcing these to-be-discarded embryos for stem cells, and not creating new ones for the purpose.
The other objection is that the technology could be used in human reproductive cloning. Fears of reproductive cloning — as opposed to therapeutic cloning — are unfounded, too, since the US, like most countries, expressly prohibits it.
The Indian Council of Medical Research has laid down guidelines on stem cell research, following a proposal to set up a national apex committee for this purpose. Cord blood banks are also being encouraged in India and these might one day altogether circumvent the need to source stem cells from embryos. The US policy change would only enlarge and extend globally the scope of cutting-edge medicine, improving future health care. (Editorial, The Times of India, 16 March 2009)