Rift in Uttarakhand over goats

A feud has erupted between two Uttarakhand Cabinet ministers over the validity of chanting Vedic mantras during the mating exercise of goats. The two-day event called Swamvara is slated to take place in a village in Nain Bag (Dhanolti), near Mussoorie, on 23 February. It is being organised by a local NGO in association with the Department of Animal Husbandry. The bickering involves Minister for Animal Husbandry, Rekha Arya and Minister for Tourism and spiritual leader Satpal Singh Rawat, commonly known as Satpal Maharaj. A similar event last year had yielded a good response. Encouraged, the Uttarakhand Sheep and Wool Development Board (under animal husbandry) plans to support it again with the NGO Green Peace this month.Arya on Monday decided to brief the press about the coming event, but cancelled the meet twice. Curious, journalists began snooping around. It was discovered that Satpal Maharaj was upset as he came to know that the Vedic mantras would be chanted during the event, as was done last year without applying mind about time and place. Maharaj told The Sunday Guardian that “The mantras should not be chanted anywhere and at any place. In Sanatan Dharma, there is a special place and time for chanting the mantras.” In 2017, a local entrepreneur had cashed in on the innocuous breeding exercise initiated for goats by terming it Swamvara. 

The goats were dressed with flowers and the Swamvara was organised with the chanting of Vedic mantras. The event was a success, with curios tourists coming to watch it. Roped in, the Sheep Development Board had even showcased ways to improve the breed of goats and educated the farmers about keeping goats disease free.This made Satpal Maharaj angry as he felt that Vedic mantras were misused for some commercial activity. Rekha Arya reiterated that the board was associated with the local NGO only in terms of encouraging goat rearing and ensuring that the villagers were given information on the matter. 

“It is swam ka var for the goats. Our job is to showcase good breeds of goats, improve livestock and set up check up camps for the goats and sheep,” she pointed out. She is keen to host the Swamvara this time again. While the board is going ahead with the preparations, the Minister for Urban Development Madan Kaushik has declared that the Swamvara would go on without the chanting of mantras. “Vedic chanting is part of Sanatan Dharma and, I agree, these should not be misused.”

Born in Kankhal in Haridwar, Maharaj is the son of spiritual master Yogiraj Paramsant Shri Hansji Maharaj. He is a National Executive member of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He was also a member of the Lok Sabha as a Congress leader. He joined the BJP on 21 March 2014.

Dalai Lama never charges fee for appearance

An allegation against Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has upset his followers in India and abroad. A UK-based newspaper, the Daily Mail, has alleged that the Dalai Lama charged $1 million for an event in a programme in the US in 2009. The office of the Dalai Lama in McLeodganj told The Sunday Guardian that the article by Ryan Parry regarding Dalai Lama’s appearance at an event in Albany, New York, in 2009 contained “incorrect statements and untrue allegations”.“We wish to categorically state that the Dalai Lama never takes an honorarium or fee of any sort, nor does he require that any payment be made to charities or organisations as a condition of his making a personal appearance,” the officer said.”Therefore, the reported allegation has no basis. Neither the Dalai Lama, nor the Dalai Lama Foundation has ever received the alleged $1 million in connection with the appearance in Albany,” the office clarified.

National cyber investigation agency to be set up soon 

The world has started realising that it should fear more from cyber attacks than conventional wars. Cyberspace is also being exploited by well-organised professional hackers, crime syndicates, global business houses, foreign spy agencies and terrorist groups.India is also gearing up, though slowly, to deal with faceless cyber crime and warlords, foreign intelligence agencies and ruthless business operators functioning from unknown global locations. The Centre is in the process of setting up a National Cyber Investigation Agency (NCIA), on the pattern and on par with premier anti-terror agency National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its structure and function.India has been ranked the fifth most vulnerable country to have cyber attacks, according to a study. That is why a need has been felt for long to have a pan-India organisation to deal with such cases.Ministry of Home Affairs officials say that cases of data breach remain underreported, as the legal framework for dealing with cyber crimes is very limited.With the formation of NCIA, the legal mechanism will also be in place. 

Half Widow awaits release in Kashmir

The small film making community in Kashmir is keeping fingers crossed over the countrywide release of an award-winning film, Half Widow, in March. The feature film was wholly shot in the valley. It had its New York premiere in December 2017. The filmmakers are organising a special screening in Srinagar this month. Although there is nothing controversial in the film, the makers are apprehensive about the militants’ reaction to it. Cinema halls in the valley were shut soon after the eruption of militancy around 28 years ago. Whenever an attempt was made to reopen some of the cinema halls, threats from militants kept them closed. A special premiere is being planned at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre on the banks of the Dal Lake. The film is about women empowerment. It is the story of a Kashmiri woman whose happy life takes a drastic turn as her husband disappears and her brother loves and protects her in her struggle as a half widow.The director Danish Renzu, a Kashmiri filmmaker, told The Sunday Guardian, “We are hopeful that our film will encourage young filmmakers and actors of the valley and help in reviving the cinema in Kashmir.”Renzu’s In search of America InshAllah, shot in Los Angeles, received critical acclaim at Cannes, CAAM, Noor Iranian Film Festival and various other film festivals. Renzu is also working on a feature film set in Kashmir titled Pashmina. Half Widow has already won accolades at several film festivals. It received the Audience Choice-Best Feature Film award at the last South Asian International Film Festival. The film has Kashmiri actors in the main roles. It has Neelofar Hamid in the lead role. It also stars Bollywood actor of Kashmiri origin, Mir Sarwar, whose Kashmir Daily became the first made-in-Kashmir film to see a countrywide release after more than four decades.

Haryana BJP MP will float own political front

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s first time Lok Sabha MP from Kurukshetra, Raj Kumar Saini (65) has decided to float his own “political front” to contest the next Haryana Assembly elections. The front will be converted into a political party. Its name and office bearers will be announced on Independence Day. He feels that the BJP-ruled state government has not done much for Other Backward Classes.

“I would not contest the next elections on the ticket of the BJP or any other party,” Saini, an OBC leader, told The Sunday Guardian. “In the next Assembly polls, my upcoming front will not make any political alliance.”

An entrepreneur-turned-politician, Saini says that his supporters are busy making mass public contact for eventually forming a political party. Saini rose in politics as a village head in 1982 to a member of the Haryana Assembly in 1996, later a Minister of State in the Haryana government and a Lok Sabha MP in the 2014. 

“Our aim is to bring a change in the political course where rights of socially marginalised would not be allowed to be infringed upon,” says Saini. “In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the OBC voters had shown faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But, a section of the BJP was ready to sacrifice the constitutional rights of reservation of the OBC. The Supreme Court has already ruled against reservation to Jats. In spite of the fact that including Jats in the reservation is unconstitutional, several BJP leaders are in its favour for political gains. But we will fight for the interests of the marginalised sections,” points out Saini. 

He is not attacking Modi and the BJP chief Amit Shah. The BJP’s state leadership is watching his moves closely. 

In a scathing attack on the Congress and the INLD, Saini says that the leaders of these parties wanted “to retain power within their families”. 

During their tenures in the past, the Congress and the INLD did nothing to improve the condition of the farmers and socio-economically backward sections, says Saini. “Now, they claim themselves as leaders of the oppressed class and the upcoming political front will expose such elements.”

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com

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