Shravan Shukla 9, Vik.Samvat 2074, Yugabda 5119: August 1, 2017

1. FESTIVALS: Ramayana Masam

2.  Swagatam! Swagatam! SHRI Ramnath Kovind


4. Behdienkhlam Festival

5. Mohan Bhagwat Stresses Discipline, Self-restraint for Nation-building

6. Violence over cow protection is unacceptable, must punish convict

7.  APJ Abdul KalAM Memorial Inaugurated: Modi calls for developed BHARAT by 2022 as fitting tribute to Kalam 8. YOGA HELPS STAY YOUNG, HEALTHY: STUDY
11. 'We're here to stay': Hindu community celebrates 10th anniversary of temple with Trudeau, Tory 12. First Sikh woman MP in Britain joins key House panel
13. 'Wish You Were Our PM,' Pak Woman Praises Sushma Swaraj After Visa Help 14. Bharat electrifying a remote village in Egypt with solar project
15. PIO academician named dean of MIT's engg school 16. POK IS BHARAT’S, SO PAK NOD NOT NEEDED FOR PATIENT’S VISA - SUSHMA
17. Asians now recognised as Kenya’s 44th tribe 18. Connecting NRIs to their Roots
19.  Pak, separatists, terrorists biggest enemies of Kashmir: RSS leader Indresh Kumar 20. Over 51,000 RSS Shakhas in the country
21. Initiate to Cure Ills: Bhaiyaji Joshi 22. US resumes H-1B premium processing for certain BHARATIYA visa categories


Aiding Hinduism in Pakistan


1. FESTIVALS: Ramayana Masam (Karkkidakam Masam: 17 July - 16 August) is an important festival in the state of Kerala. It is observed in the month of 'Karkkidakam' of the Malayalam calendar while in the Gregorian calendar it corresponds to the months of July to August. The Masam is held sacred for Hindus, especially in the southern parts of the country. The epic Ramayana written by saint Valmiki in Sanskrit was translated in the Malayalam language by Thunchath Ezhuthachan and is known as 'Adhyatma Ramayana Kilippattu'.

Starting from the first day, every day during the Karkkidakam Masam, all the members of the house gather, after sunset. After lighting the evening lamp, they sit close to the 'Nilavilakku' or the traditional Kerala lamp and narrate the verses of 'Adhyatma Ramayana' (the Malayalam version of Ramayana). The reading of Ramayana is managed in a way that it ends on the last day of the Karkkidakam Masam. Hindu organizations perform this ritual in almost all temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Karkkidakam Masam is the last month in the Malayalam calendar. Owing to the heavy rains in the month, Karkidakam Masam is also known as 'Panja Masam' or the period of scarcity.

Several religious and spiritual organisations conduct plays, public discourses, recitals and quiz competition based on Ramayana during this month.

Hindu devotees actively participate in these events with full enthusiasm. During Ramayana Masam, Hindus undertake pilgrimage to the four temples of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna, located in the Kottayam and Thrissur districts. This ritual is known as 'Nalambalam Darshanam'. -goTop


2.  Swagatam! Swagatam! SHRI Ramnath Kovind has been sworn-in as the 14th Rashtrapati of Bharat. His oath was administered by Mukhya Nyayadhish of Bharat JS Khehar at a ceremonial function in the Parliament House on July 25. The oath ceremony was attended by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi, Mukhya Nyayadhish of Bharat, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Members of Council of Ministers, Rajyapals, Mukhya Mantris, Heads of Diplomatic Missions, Members of Parliament and principal Civil and Military Officers of the Bharat Sarkar.

Shri Kovind defeated opposition's Meira Kumar by huge margins. Shri Kovind joined the BJP in 1991. He was the Adhyaksha of the BJP Dalit Morcha between  1998 to 2002. He also served as Rajya Sabha Sadasya from 1994 to 2006.

Rashtrapati Ram Nath Kovind, a former Rajyapal of Bihar, was born on 1st October 1945 in Paraukh village in the Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh. Only the 2nd Dalit leader ever to be elected to the post, Kovind did his graduation in law from a college in Kanpur. Before starting his career as a lawyer, He cleared the civil services examination but did not join as he was selected for an allied service.-goTop


3.  Excerpts from the SPEECH BY SHRI RAM NATH KOVIND ON HIS ASSUMPTION OF OFFICE AS Bharat ke Rashtrapati: I grew up in a mud house, in a small village. My journey has been a long one, and yet this journey is hardly mine alone. It is so telling of our nation and our society also. For all its problems, it follows that basic mantra given to us in the Preamble to the Constitution - of ensuring Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and I will always continue to follow this basic mantra.

Our Independence was the result of efforts by thousands of patriotic freedom fighters led by Mahatma Gandhi. Later, Sardar Patel integrated our nation.

For us, those two touchstones can never be separate. They are and must forever be linked.

The key to Bharat's success is its diversity. Our diversity is the core that makes us so unique.

As the gram panchayat must determine our consultative and community based problem solving, the Digital Republic must help us leapfrog developmental milestones. These are the twin pillars of our national endeavour.

Each citizen of Bharat is a nation builder. Each one of us is a custodian of Bharat's well-being and of the legacy that we will pass on to coming generations.

Our endeavours are not for ourselves alone. Down the ages, Bharat has believed in the philosophy of VasudhaivaKutumbakam (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्) - the World is My Family.  

Bharat's voice counts in today's world. The entire planet is drawn to Bharatiya culture and soft power. The global community looks to us for solutions to international problems - whether terrorism, money laundering or climate change. In a globalised world, our responsibilities are also global.

We have achieved a lot as a nation, but the effort to do more, to do better and to do faster should be relentless. The citizens of this country are the real source of strength to me. I am confident that they will continue to give me the energy to serve the nation.-goTop


4. Behdienkhlam Festival of the Raij Tuber, one  of the most  colourful and the biggest festivals in the Jaintia  Hills region concluded on July 20 in Shillong  amidst thousands of spectators from across the state  and outside.Being the biggest of its kind, the  Tuber Behdienkhlam has under it over 50-60 villages.  The celebration was held at the sacred place called the 'Bear' situated in the heart of Tuber village which is about 25 kilometers from Jowai.

The festival was also witnessed by the Chief Minister of Meghalaya Dr. Mukul Sangma besides MLAs and MDCs and top district officials. Members of the Raij Tuber, both young and old, drawn from various villages that falls under the Raij Tuber brought their 'rots' and displayed them at the sacred place-at Kmaishnong Tuber. Altogether there were 61 'rots' finely decorated with colourful hues and built with unique designs brought to the 'Bear' with people dancing accompanied by drum beats which held spectators in awe. The ritual started early in the morning before the 'rots' were brought to the 'Bear' which includes the 'Knia Behkhlam' a ritual where a group of people holding rods made of bamboos used these to chase away plague and evil spirits. -goTop


5. Mohan Bhagwat Stresses Discipline, Self-restraint for Nation-building: "For any personal and social work or service to the nation - purushartha is important. Bharat is culturally rich, and we all want development. But this is only possible if we all follow a disciplined direction," said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarsanghchalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat at Acharya Shri Mahashraman Education and Research Foundation in Kolkata on July 23. "I personally feel that one should be disciplined to achieve goals. One should learn the art of self-restraint to build the nation. Above all, we can change the society by following the footsteps of santh (saint)," he added. -goTop


6. Violence over cow protection is unacceptable, must punish convict: RSS Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya told reporters in Jammu on July 20 that instead of connecting violence in the name of cow protection, with RSS, action should be taken against those found guilty.Vaidya, who was replying to questions on incidents of lynching and violence linked to cow protection, said "Sangh does not support any kind of violence. We have said it earlier and made it clear earlier too". The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) three-day conclave in Jammu ended on 20th July, the first such meet in Jammu and Kashmir since independence, during which issues related to the situation in the state, country and various other topics were discussed. As many as 195 pracharaks (preachers), heads of all allied organisations of RSS and top leaders took part in the conference, in which its chief Mohan Bhagwat, senior leaders Bhaiyyaji Joshi, Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal also participated. -goTop


7.  APJ Abdul KalAM Memorial Inaugurated: Modi calls for developed BHARAT by 2022 as fitting tribute to Kalam: Paying glowing tributes to former Rashtrapati APJ Abdul Kalam, Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi has said a fitting tribute to the late leader would be to develop Bharat in all spheres when the country celebrated its 75th independence day in 2022.

Addressing a public meeting at Mandapam, near Rameshwaram after dedicating to nation, the memorial of former president APJ Abdul Kalam on July 27, he said Shri Kalam had dreamt for a developed Bharat and called upon the youth to resolve to fulfil his dream by 2022. "This will be the fitting tribute to Shri Kalam", he added.

The centre has come out with the start up Bharat and stand up Bharat programmes for the younger generation, not to help them to seek employment but make them become entrepreneurs and provide employment to others, he said.

Stating he missed 'Amma' (former Mukhya Mantri Jayalalithaa) Shri Modi said had she been around, she would have greatly appreciated the workers for building a wonderful memorial for Shri Kalam. At the request of Shri Modi, those gathered at the function gave a standing ovation for the more than 450 workers who worked overtime but never claimed extra payment. Shri Modi also complimented DRDO for building the memorial within a short span of time. -goTop


8. YOGA HELPS STAY YOUNG, HEALTHY: STUDY: A group of medical researchers from Britain, Belgium and Netherlands have found scientifically that regular practice of yoga and meditation would help people to stay young and keep away diseases and depression. Frontiers of Immunology, an internationally respected scientific journal, which is the official publication of the International Union of Immunological Society, has come out with a peer-reviewed research paper on yoga and meditation. The research was held by scientists of Coventry University of Britain, Radboud University of Netherlands and Antwerp University of Belgium. Interestingly, the research team had scientists only from Britain, Netherlands and Belgium and there were no Asians in it.

"This is a stunning research finding. Yoga and meditation could turn back molecular reactions within your DNA that causes diseases and depression," said Mike Adams, chief editor, Natural News, described as the Health Ranger of the United States. -goTop


9. NEED TO BUILD POSITIVE NATIONALISTIC NARRATIVE: J NANDKUMAR: The culture of narration and dialogue exemplified in our "shastras" by Nachiketa, or Narad or Sanjay needs to be rediscovered by scholars and made relevant in the context of present times, said J Nanda Kumar, Akhil Bharatiya Samyojak, Pragya Pravah, while addressing a "Prerna Shivir'' of Panchnad Research Institute in Kurukshetra. He exhorted scholars to undertake intense research, create content and build a nationalistic narrative. He also underscored the need to make learning of Sanskrit more accessible to people, particularly to the younger generation of today because the whole repository of culture and philosophy of the land was scripted in Sanskrit. Nandakumar said, in fact, in the past Sanskrit was the national language of the country which was the tool of narrative across the land.

Mukul Kanitkar, organising secretary of the Bharatiya Shiksha Mandal, said, the Bharatiya culture held the nature in reverence, whereas West always sought to exploit the nature for advantage of mankind which has brought the world on the verge of a serious environmental crisis.

Former MP Tarun Vijay stressed the need to decolonise the mind of the present day youth. Dr BK Kuthiala, director of the Panchnad, and Dr KS Arya, acting president, laid down the blueprint for the future course of the organisation and exhorted its members to shape the narrative in the society.  -goTop


10.  Vishwa Sangh Shiksha Varg: Dwitiya Varsh was inaugurated on July 15 at a scenic location, Surabirdi Meadows near Nagpur. A total of 65 shiksharthis from 13 countries are participating in the varg. A similar varg is being held at Reshimbag Smriti Mandir complex for sevikas where 47 shiksharthis from 5 countries are participating. Apart from regular physical and intellectual activities, special programs like path sanchalan, gram darshan and matru haste bhojan are taking place during thevarga. Vishwa Vibhag adhikaris from HSS Global coordinating team, Saumitra ji Gokhale and Dr Ram Vaidya in the camp for the whole period while Ravikumarji, Dr Sadanand Sapre and Shyam Parande are visiting the varg as per their programs. RSS Sarsanghchalak  Dr Mohan Bhagwat, Sarkaryavaha Bhayyaji Joshi, Dattatreya Hosabale and other senior sangh adhikaris shall also visit the camp. A grand pathasanchalan was organized on 29th July.

It started from Madhav Nagar ground and passed through Bajaj Nagar, Abhyankar Nagar and came back to Madhav Nagar ground. 65 course participants, ably guided by the volunteers from Nagpur marched to the tunes of the band expressing confidence and resolve of the Hindu society abroad to work for the cause of 'VasudhaivKutumbakam' (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्).

There are several Hindu organizations working for the preservation and promotion of Hindu culture outside Bharat like Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS ) - USA, HSS Australia, HSS Canada, Sewa International USA etc. Many men and women are contributing selflessly and relentlessly for imparting our traditions and culture to the younger generations of Hindus and making aware the larger society in those countries about the glorious traditions of Hindu culture. They organize weekly gatherings for youth, carry out various kinds of seva  ( charity ) works and other such endeavours.  Volunteers taking up this work have a strong desire to visit Bharat, experience the uninterrupted stream of Hindu civilization and the rising Bharat and learn the skills like Yoga, Sanskrit, traditional Bharatiya games etc. For many participants like the ones from Caribbean countries of Guyana, Trinidad, it is their first visit to their ancestor's land and they look at it as a pilgrimage.

The pathasanchalan was enthusiastically welcomed by the residents of Nagpur by showering flowers and slogans like 'Bharat Mata ki Jay', 'Vishwa Dharmki Jay'. The dignitaries present during this event were Shri Suresh Soni - RSS joint general secretary, Adv Alok Kumar - Course in charge, Prof Ravindra Joshi - Course Coordinator and Anil Vartak, Sangathak of the Varg. -goTop


11. 'We're here to stay': Hindu community celebrates 10th anniversary of temple with Trudeau, Tory: Thousands from the Hindu community in Toronto and beyond turned out July 22 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of an iconic temple that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called "without a doubt one of Canada's architectural wonders." The celebration of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, temple, located in Etobicoke, also saw His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj be given a key to the City of Toronto by Mayor John Tory. Prime Minister Trudeau recalled opening of the temple on July 22, 2007 when the then-prime minister Stephen Harper was in attendance." Today I feel that history is repeating itself," said BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir spokesperson Nilesh Mehta. The gleaming structure is something he says symbolizes the Hindu community's love for Canada. -goTop


12. First Sikh woman MP in Britain joins key House panel: The first Sikh woman MP in Britain, Preet Kaur Gill, has been selected as a member of an influential parliamentary select committee which scrutinises the work of the home office.

The Labour MP, who won the Birmingham Edgbaston seat in the UK elections 2017, will be one of 11 MPs on the cross-party home affairs committee, which investigates the spending, policy and administration of the ministerial department. -goTop


13. 'Wish You Were Our PM,' Pak Woman Praises Sushma Swaraj After Visa Help: Videsh Mantri Sushma Swaraj has directed the Bharatiya High Commission in Islamabad to issue a visa to a Pakistani national for medical treatment in Bharat.Touched by Swaraj's prompt response, the woman, Hijaab Asif, praised the minister and even said Pakistan would have changed had she been the Prime Minister of her country. “@SushmaSwaraj What do I call you? Superwoman? God? No words to describe your generosity! Love you ma'am. Cannot stop praising you in tears!!!," she said. -goTop


14. Bharat electrifying a remote village in Egypt with solar project: A solar project with state-of-the-art technology has been launched in a remote village in Egypt.  The village named Agaween village is in the Western Desert in Matrouh Governorate, close to the Libyan border.

The off grid system is ideal for remote locations. Egyptian government made arrangement for the location of the project. Bharat provided all the solar panels and sub-systems, machinery, equipment and technical support, as well as training for technicians. "The project harnesses the sun and enriches the life of the villagers. The project is a demonstration of Bharat's technical capabilities, especially in renewable energy, and can be replicated at other locations in Egypt," Bharat's ambassador to Egypt Sanjay Bhattacharyya said while inaugurating the project. Major General Alla Fathi Abou Zeid, Governor of Matrouh inaugurated the project. -goTop


15. PIO academician named dean of MIT's engg school: A Bharat-born academician at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been named as the dean of its engineering school. Anantha Chandrakasan, the Vannevar Bush Professor and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) assumed his new role effective July 1.

The Chennai-born academician had previously headed the MIT's largest academic department, spearheading a number of initiatives that opened opportunities for students, postdocs, and faculty to conduct research, explore entrepreneurial projects.

MIT President Rafael Reif said in the statement that in a time of significant challenges, from new pressures on federal funding to the rising global competition for top engineering talent, he is confident that Chandrakasan would guide the school of engineering to maintain and enhance its position of leadership. He is a recipient of several awards including the 2009 Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) University Researcher Award, the 2013 IEEE Donald O Pederson Award in Solid-State Circuits, an honorary doctorate from KU Leuven in 2016, and the UC Berkeley EE Distinguished Alumni Award. He was also recognised as the author with the highest number of publications in the 60-year history of the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), the foremost global forum for presentation of advances in solid- state circuits and systems-on-a-chip. -goTop


16. POK IS BHARAT'S, SO PAK NOD NOT NEEDED FOR PATIENT'S VISA - SUSHMA: Videsh Mantri Sushma Swaraj allowed a medical visa to be given to an ailing resident of Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (POK), Osama Ali, saying he is a resident of an area which is part of Bharat, currently illegally occupied by Pakistan. "POK is an integral part of Bharat. Pakistan has illegally occupied it. We are giving him a visa. No letter required," Sushma tweeted. The Ministe's line is clear indicative of the fact that Bharat would remain assertive on POK and the residents of the region may be allowed to travel to Bharat in future as well without any hindrance. Osama (24) - a resident of Rawalkot in POK - has been diagnosed with a tumour in his liver and he wants to come to Delhi.-goTop


17. Asians now recognised as Kenya’s 44th tribe: “I do hereby recognise, proclaim and order, 1. that Kenyans of Asian Heritage constitute a Community that is one of the Tribes of Kenya; 2. that from now hence forth the Community of Kenyans of Asian Heritage are Kenya’s 44th Tribe,” declared Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in a proclamation which appeared in the official presidential journal made public on July 22.

The term "Asian community" in Kenya generally designates those of Indo-Pakistani origin who made their homes in the east African nation from the late 19th Century as the then British colonial power was constructing a first railway link from the port of Mombasa to Kampala in Uganda. According to Kenya's most recent census of 2009, the South Asian community numbers some 46,000 people. There are a further 35,000 who do not have citizenship.-goTop


18. Connecting NRIs to their Roots:  Nine Kathakars associated with the Ekal Abhiyan visited the US in the month of February. They included Teerthchand Kaushik from Sikkim, Priya Sahachari from Guwahati, Johan from Madhya Bharat, Sumitra from Mahakaushal, Geetmala from Silchar, Meena from Jammu and Dileshwar, Radheshyam and Sandip Kumar from Jharkhand.

They participated in more than 50 programmes under 'Ekal Sur, Ekal Tal' programme in 27 states of the US during six months. Big events were organised on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They joined various Bhajan Sandhyas and Satsang in different temples.

The NRIs participated in all the events with great enthusiasm. An eagerness to connect to their roots was also seen among them. It also strengthened the Ekal Abhiyan. All these Kathakars returned Bharat recently. They were honoured for the successful trip. -goTop


19.  Pak, separatists, terrorists biggest enemies of Kashmir: RSS leader Indresh Kumar: Pakistan, separatists and terrorists are the biggest enemies of Kashmir, Kashmiris and Kashmiriyat, the RSS said on July 27, advising Islamabad to "keep off Kashmir" and reminding it of how its "hate-Bharat" campaign cost it dearly in the past. Talking to the media on the sidelines of a function organised by the Bharat-Tibet Sahyog Manch in Jammu, RSS leader Indresh Kumar minced no words and asked Pakistan to mend its ways before it becomes "too little, too late" for the neighbour. -goTop


20. Over 51,000 RSS Shakhas in the country: RSS Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh Dr. Manmohan Vaidya briefted the media after the Prant Prachark meeting on July 20. He said this year, 87 Sangh Shikha Vargs took place wherein 23,223 shiksharthis participated.

A total of 15,816 shiksharthis below the age of 40 years participated and 3,000 shiksharthis were in the second year Varg and 899 were in third year camp. At present, there are 51,688 daily shakhas and 13,432 weekly milans in the country.

There are 2,965 Pracharks, Vistaraks across the country. Number of persons joining the RSS is increasing as in the last three years - 31,800 in 2015, 47,209 in 2016 and 71,872 in the last six months. -goTop


21. Initiate to Cure Ills: Bhaiyaji Joshi: "We are undoubtedly heading towards leading the world, but at the same time we must not ignore the weaknesses of our own society. Wherever and whatever wrong one finds, initiate steps to correct it," said RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi, while felicitating newly recruited civil servants on July 23, at a function organised by Sankalp. Bhaiyaji said despite many efforts on part of the society and governments still many do not have access to medicines, etc., therefore such type of necessities needed to be addressed. Earlier Dr Krishna Gopal said civil service is a mean to serve the nation. Shri Madan Das extended best wishes to the new civil servants. -goTop


22. US resumes H-1B premium processing for certain BHARATIYA visa categories: The Trump administration has come out with a new set of conditions of exemptions which seem to benefit the Bharatiya immigrants who come under the H1B visa status. The US will resume the premium processing for certain cap-exempt H-1B visa applications if the H-1B petitioner is: *An institution of higher education; *A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or *A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Premium processing will also resume for petitions that may also be exempt if the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity. -goTop


23. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Saumitra ji Gokhale, samyojak Vishwa Vibhag will travel to USA after the VSSV in Bharat, Ravi Kumar ji, sahsamyojak is in Singapore, Dr Ram Vaidya, sahsamyojak will travel to Japan.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: As long as someone cries out "O God! O God!" be sure that he has not found God, for whoever has found Him becomes still.- Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa (1836-1886) -goTop



Aiding Hinduism in Pakistan

Couple reports progress on some fronts, though many issues remain for the nation’s Hindus


In December 2016, Sanjesh Dhanja and his wife Kiran Kumari were hosted by the Hindu American Foundation for a US tour to enhance awareness of issues faced by Hindus in Pakistan. In 2009 these two tireless human rights workers co-founded the Pakistan Hindu Seva Welfare Trust (PHS,, a charity organization whose mission is to create a peaceful Pakistan, free from discrimination and to strengthen human values through opportunities for minorities and deprived communities. Dhanja, the president of PHS, says, "Our goal is secular, not political: to work for education, health and human rights in Pakistan, largely for the millions of deprived Hindus there."

The current estimate of Hindus in Pakistan is 1.9 million. This is considered low. The long overdue national census in 2017 should provide higher numbers, if one includes Dalits, who will instead be designated as a separate religion even though the vast majority practice Hinduism. Says Dhanja, "Just about 2% are in the middle class, and at least 90% are very poor. Many are from scheduled castes. About 8% of the Hindus are wealthy, in business or serving in the legislature. Though they represent the entire Hindu community, they don't always support poor Hindus. We need funds to help this poor population."

Kiran Kumari, secretary of PHS, explains the disappearance of Pakistan's Hindus: "Some converted, some migrated and some lost their lives in various crises. Some Muslim groups do try to pressure Hindus to convert. We are working to resist this. Educated Muslims do not want Hindus to leave their faith. Because their strength is with us, we are able to raise our voices." PHS works on a broad array of fronts: burial and cremation matters for Hindus, an education center in Karachi, bringing the community closer by organizing cricket tournaments and preventing vandalization of temples. In 2014 six Hindu temples were attacked. Dhanja shares, "We believe every religion is a good religion," and the challenge is to teach Hindus about their faith in an Islamic nation.

"Ours is a painful story," confided Dhanja. "With no laws protecting Hindus, there is no access to justice. But there is some change today. We are trying to create awareness of our society, for we, too, are part of Pakistan." Kiran reports that at least 25 new cases of rape and forced conversion are registered every month, mostly in the poverty-stricken interior of Sindh. These include forced conversions and "love jihad," where girls are compelled to convert in order to marry Muslim men who use social pressure to take advantage of women's poverty. If poor Hindus cannot feed their family, conversion can seem attractive. Ten percent of the girls convert willingly, but the majority are compelled. Dhanja and Kumari have led protests against forced conversions and even rescued two girls. Threatened because of this activism, they focus now on societal issues for minorities. "Health, education and women's empowerment are the next phase of our work, and these will alleviate the problem of forced conversions," says Dhanja. "We want to teach the tenets of the Hindu faith to our children and want our Hindus to be aware of their religion so they won’t convert out of duress; if they do convert, it will be after a thoughtful process."

"In every religion, people try to teach the tenets of their faith to their children from birth, but this does not happen with Hindus in Pakistan," she noted. "We live in a society which does not allow us to learn about our own faith."

Ninety percent of Hindus are bonded laborers and receive no education. Says Dhanja, "The hate material in the school textbooks is not good for our children. What is falsely written about non-Muslim minorities needs to be corrected." PHS holds Bhagavad Gita quiz challenges for young Hindus to teach them a correct view of Hinduism.

Working with the government and with other NGOs, the couple are seeing incremental changes. In 2017 the government made some changes in the school textbooks, and included chapters on Hindu festivals like Diwali, Holi and Navratri. The government has given Hindus plots to build new temples. Cremations, disallowed in many Islamic countries, are available to Pakistani Hindus. Yoga is better accepted; there is even a popular yoga program on television. In 2016 the government announced holidays on Diwali and Holi for the Hindu community. "Also," Dhanja adds, "68 years after Independence, Hindu marriage is now recognized under the law, but only in Sindh. We hope it may become law on a national level in the future." Travel for Hindus to India is also easier now. "We get visas to go to India, and this year a group of 90 Hindus traveled to India for a yatra. We went to Vrindaban, Rishikesh, Haridwar and also the Akshardham temple in Delhi," states Kiran Kumari. Dhanja would like Hindus from India to come and visit the pilgrimage spots in Pakistan, such as the ancient Shiv Temple in Chatwal, where Shiva's first tear had fallen and become a pond. He says,"The very name Hindu comes from the Sindhu River in Sindh. We should be very proud of that." Dhanja concludes, "We Hindus live together with the Muslims, who are very good neighbors. Extremism is the only problem we face." The couple see Pakistan as the home of all its citizens. "Our work is for all Pakistanis: we are working for the larger community. We work to benefit all humanity in Pakistan, not only the Hindus. We have to live in Pakistan - we are born of the soul of that country! Pakistan is our vatan, our homeland. We are facing the problems of the country together - we would not want to leave but rather stay and solve the problems we face together." ( Web Edition > July/August/September 2017) -goTop