India News

Booklet, Pamphlet On ‘Love Jihad’ Distributed At Spiritual Fair In Jaipur

A controversial booklet and a pamphlet warning Hindu girls of ‘love jihad’ were allegedly distributed at a stall in an ongoing Hindu spiritual and service fair in Jaipur, prompting the police to order an inquiry.

The pamphlets, carrying a picture of a Bollywood actress, warned people against ‘love jihad’ and also claimed that two Muslim actors had left their Hindu wives.

Amid claims that the material was reportedly handed out at a stall of Bajrang Dal, its coordinator Ashok Singh clarified that it was not distributed from their stall. Fair organiser Somkant Sharma said the content was not related to the fair.

“I have no idea if such pamphlets have been distributed. The fair is totally based on the work of service,” he said.

The booklet and pamphlet have been withdrawn and an investigation ordered following the incident.

Jaipur’s Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Yogesh Dadhich said an inquiry has been ordered to investigate the matter. “On reports of such material, I have asked the additional DCP to investigate the matter to ascertain who distributed these things in the fair,” he told news agency PTI.

The fair is being held from November 16 to November 20.


Jeffrey Tambor Quits Transparent After Sex Assault Claims

After two women on the set of Transparent accused him of sexual harassment, Emmy Award-winning actor Jeffrey Tambor announced on Sunday he is leaving the Amazon series, the latest star felled by similar accusations. “Playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life,” Tambor told Deadline Hollywood magazine about the transgender role. “What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago.”

Deadline said the show had already been considering writing off the show the character played by the US actor, who has also won a Golden Globe for the role, after allegations first emerged against him earlier this month.

“I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue,” he said. “Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.”

The claims are being brought by Mr Tambor’s former assistant, transgender actress Van Barnes, and actress Trace Lysette, who is openly transgender. Both actresses have been on the set of Transparent.

Ms Barnes said her former boss had propositioned her on several occasions, made lewd comments, groped her and threatened to sue her if she made the behavior known.

Ms Lysette said Mr Tambor had made lewd remarks of a sexual nature to her repeatedly, and had been “physical” with her at least once.

After those claims were made public, Mr Tambor insisted that “I have never been a predator – ever.”


Donald Trump Not Anti-Immigrant, Says White House

White House has refuted the notion that US President Donald Trump is anti-immigrant.

“First of all, I don’t think that the rhetoric is anti-immigrant. I think it’s anti-illegal immigration,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said.

Mr Shah’s remark comes days after a key Congressional committee passed a legislation that proposes to increase the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders from USD 60,0000 to USD 90,000 and imposes a number of restrictions on the work visa that is popular among Indian IT professionals.

The bill prohibits H-1B dependent employers from replacing American workers with H-1B employees, there are no longer any exceptions.

It also lengthens the no-layoff policy for H-1B dependent employers and their client companies for as long an H-1B employee works at the company, which means they cannot layoff equivalent US workers.

Mr Shah said Mr Trump was only trying to make immigration “more merit-based” and “reform” the legal system regarding it.

“President Trump has put forward a pretty serious set of proposals on immigration; not just on enforcement but also about reforming the legal system to make it more merit-based right with ideas that work for the US economy and for the American worker,” he said.

“To ask for immigration to support the US economy, for asking for people who are coming here to be vetted for public safety or security threats, I don’t think it’s a very big leap. I think it’s very reasonable. The public supports that,” he added.

Mr Shah slammed the mainstream media for the “unfair” coverage on the issue, which “sometimes” leaves the White House “frustrated”.

“There’s a tone in the media on this issue which is not fair. The mainstream media is just not paying attention to and is not focused and not giving kind of credit where it’s due,” he rued, asserting that in today’s modern age, the president has many ways to get his message out.

“He uses it very effectively with Twitter and other social media. He uses it very effective with public speaking with taking and when he does a question and answer session we always say look the president is his own best messenger,” he said.


Woman Tries To Enter Ayyappa Temple, Questioned By Police

A 31-year-old woman Sunday made a failed attempt to enter the famous Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, where female devotees in the 10-50 age group are not permitted.

The woman, a resident of West Godavari district in Telangana, was picked up from ‘sannidhanam’, the temple complex, police sources told PTI.

She was questioned and her statement recorded, they said.

According to the tradition of the temple, the entry of women in the 10-50 age group is restricted in the hillock shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, considered the ‘Naishtika Brahmachari’ or the perennial celibate.

The woman, Parvathy, was not carrying the traditional “irumudi”, a small bundle containing coconut, ghee, turmeric and sandal paste which is offered to the deity. And, she took a different path to reach the ‘sannidhanam’, the police said.

Normally, devotees climb the ‘pathinettam padi’, the sacred 18 steps leading to the temple complex.

The woman, who was accompanied by her husband, two children and 11 other people from her village, told police that she was unaware of the restrictions with regard to women of the banned age group at the shrine.

On suspicion, police checked her identity card which showed she was only 31 years old.

The entry of women is strictly monitored by police at Pampa before they begin to trek Sabarimala to reach the shrine.

Temple sources were clueless on how the woman managed to reach near the shrine defying the police monitoring and stringent checks.

Marking the beginning of the pilgrimage season, the Sabarimala temple opened on November 15 for the three-month annual ‘Mandalam-Makaravilakku’ festival.

Thousands of people across the country are visiting the hillock shrine every day to catch a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa and offer prayers.

The ban on the issue of entry of women in the age group has been challenged in the Supreme Court, which had on October 13 referred it to a constitution bench.

‘Bhumata Brigade’ leader and woman activist Trupti Desai had said she would enter Sabarimala defying restrictions on the entry of women of the banned age group.


China proposed three-phase plan for Rohingya issue

China has proposed a three-phase plan for resolving the Rohingya crisis, starting with a ceasefire, that has won the support of Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Foreign Ministry said.

More than 600,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August driven out by a military clearance operation in Buddhist majority Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The Rohingyas’ suffering has caused an international outcry.

Visiting the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China believed that the issue could be addressed by a solution acceptable to neighbours Myanmar and Bangladesh through consultations.

A ceasefire should be followed by bilateral dialogue to find a workable solution, the ministry website reported late on Sunday. The third and final phase should be to work toward a long-term solution.

Wang said a ceasefire was basically in place already, and the key now was to prevent a flare-up. He hoped the two sides could soon sign and implement an agreement already reached on repatriation.

The international community and the United Nations Security Council should give encouragement and support to both countries “to create the necessary conditions and a good environment”, it quoted Wang as saying at a joint press conference with Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader.

Myanmar was supportive of the Chinese plan, as was Bangladesh, where Wang visited earlier in the weekend. In Dhaka Wang said the international community should not complicate the situation.


Indian Consul General’s Family Held Hostage In Armed Robbery In South Africa

The family of India’s Consul General in Durban was attacked by robbers and briefly held hostage at their official residence there, prompting India to raise the issue with South African authorities.

The family of Consul General Shashank Vikram, including his five-year old son, domestic staff, and a visiting teacher were reportedly held up during the armed intrusion at their residence on Innes Road, on Saturday.

“We have taken up the matter with the relevant authorities, and investigations are currently ongoing. We expect that the intruders will be arrested soon,” ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

He said that ensuring the safety and security of Indian diplomats and officials posted abroad, along with their families, is a matter of highest priority for the Indian government.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has spoken to the Consul General and inquired about the well being of his family, Mr Kumar said.

The robbers reportedly gained entry by derailing the entrance gate, a strategy used often in a spate of recent brazen robberies in affluent suburbs north of Durban, the Independent Online reported.

“They (Vikram’s family) are OK but they were obviously traumatised,” consul SK Pandey was quoted as saying.

Nobody suffered physical harm, he said, adding that they planned to attend counselling.

He said a domestic worker’s cellphone, which was also robbed, could provide clues to the incident.


Jammu Man Shocked On Seeing His Picture Among Dead Terrorists

In a faux pas, several media houses today reportedly carried the picture of a local lad as one of the six Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists killed in a fierce gun battle in Bandipora district of north Kashmir yesterday.

“I was shocked on seeing my picture among the dead terrorists in electronic and print media. Somebody downloaded my picture from the Facebook account and circulated it as one of the dead terrorists,” a shocked Abdul Majid told PTI.

He has demanded a probe into the conspiracy.

Mr Majid, who is married with two children, sells barbecues at Khati Ka Talab and is also associated with a religious group preaching Islam.

“I am not a terrorist. How can they carry my picture? It is the negligence of media and the state administration,” he said, adding that he has filed a police complaint.

Mr Majid, having a long beard and wearing Afghani cap, displayed several newspapers which carried his picture on the front page with an alias ‘Abu Zargam’.

He said he was at home when he received a call informing him that his picture was among the six terrorists killed by security forces.

“The news came as a big shock for my family. They are all very upset,” he said.

“I do not know whose conspiracy is this. But whoever has done it has tarnished my image. It is the negligence of media and the administration–how did they publish the picture of an innocent without any proof,” he asked.

“I want my name to be cleared as soon as possible,” Mr Majid added.

Six Pakistani militants of the LeT, including the nephew of Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, were gunned down in Bandipora yesterday in an encounter in which an IAF Garud commando was also killed.


Rs. 10 Crore For Heads Of Deepika Padukone, Padmavati Director: BJP Official

The vitriol over Bollywood film Padmavati went up a notch as a BJP office bearer from Haryana said he would double the bounty on the heads of actor Deepika Padukone and filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, to Rs. 10 crore. Surajpal Amu, the party’s chief media coordinator who made the announcement, also threatened to “break the legs” of Ranveer Singh, who plays the role of Alauddin Khilji, the Delhi Sultan obsessed about the legendary 13th Century Queen of Chittor.

Asking his cheering audience if a Rs. 10 crore bounty cannot be offered instead of the 5 crore offered by a man from Meerut, he was quick to add a disclaimer. “We do not want to take law into our hands”, but if someone “raises an eye at our sisters and daughters,” they will be punished, he said in the speech peppered with threats and inflammatory comments.

Questioning how the film has been funded, he even said, “Sanjay Leela Bhansali is not worth Rs. 3 crore – where did he get Rs. 300 crore? Modi-ji you have to speak.”

The release of the film was “voluntarily” deferred on Sunday by its producers following extensive protests, vandalism and threats. But it has not placated the protesters, who demand a complete ban. “Vasundhara-ji says there will have to be cuts in the film. Forget that, we will not let this film run,” Mr Amu declared.

The film has run into trouble since shooting started. Alleging that it invented a romantic angle between Padmini and Alauddin Khilji, politically influential Rajput groups have been on the warpath. Film sets have been wrecked in two cities, movie ticket windows smashed, shops vandalized and the fort of Chittor shut to visitors.

A leader of the Rajput group Karni Sena, which has been spearheading the protests, even said they would punish Deepika Padukone the way Lakhshman punished Ravana’s sister Surpanakha in the epic Ramayana – by chopping off her nose.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan — whose government has been accused of inaction against the protesters – wrote to Union minister Smriti Irani on Saturday. The film, she said, should be put on hold to allow time discussion and removal of controversial portions.

The Uttar Pradesh government, led by Yogi Adityanath, has said it anticipates law and order disruption upon the film’s release. In Gujarat, the ruling BJP has asked the Election Commission to defer the release of the film till after the elections, which would be held next month.

The Central Board of Film Certification, popularly called the censor board, withheld the movie’s clearance last week, saying its paperwork was incomplete.


How Earth Changed In 20 Years, Captured In Captivating NASA Animation

NASA scientists have compiled a captivating video that maps how the Earth’s surface has changed over a span of 20 years, using data from satellites. In the Northern Hemisphere, ecosystems wake up in the spring and sprout new leaves, while a fleet of Earth-observing satellites track the spread of the newly green vegetation.

Meanwhile, in the oceans, microscopic plants drift through the sunlit surface waters and bloom into billions of carbon dioxide-absorbing organisms, and light-detecting instruments on satellites map the swirls of their colour.

Satellites measured land and ocean life from space as early as the 1970s. However, it was not until the launch of the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) in 1997 that the space agency began what is now a continuous, global view of both land and ocean life.

A new animation captures the entirety of this 20-year record, made possible by multiple satellites, compressing a decades-long view of life on Earth into a captivating few minutes.

“These are incredibly evocative visualisations of our living planet,” said Gene Carl Feldman, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US. “That’s the Earth, that is it breathing every single day, changing with the seasons, responding to the Sun, to the changing winds, ocean currents and temperatures,” said Mr Feldman.

Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life on the surface of the land and ocean. Twenty years of satellite data has helped scientists track phytoplankton populations in the ocean, study changing vegetation in the Arctic reaches of North America, monitor crop yield and more.

However, scientists have also discovered long-term changes across continents and ocean basins.

As NASA begins its third decade of global ocean and land measurements, these discoveries point to important questions about how ecosystems will respond to a changing climate and broad-scale changes in human interaction with the land.

Satellites have measured the Arctic getting greener, as shrubs expand their range and thrive in warmer temperatures. Observations from space help determine agricultural production globally, and are used in famine early warning detection.

As ocean waters warm, satellites have detected a shift in phytoplankton populations across the planet’s five great ocean basins, the expansion of “biological deserts” where little life thrives.

As concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continue to rise and warm the climate, NASA’s global understanding of plant life will play a critical role in monitoring carbon as it moves through the Earth system.



Dead Lizard In Mid-Day Meal, 87 Students Taken To Hospital In West Bengal

A dead lizard found in the meal of a student prompted the staff of a school in West Bengal’s Bankura district to take some 87 students to a hospital for health check-up.

None of the students of the state-run primary school in Bankura, 220 kilometres from state capital Kolkata, fell ill and they have returned home, an official said.

The lizard was found in the mid-day meal plate of a student of Mandarmani primary school in the district on Friday afternoon.

“There was panic among the students after a dead lizard was found in one of their classmates’ food… The district administration and school authorities took them to the local hospital immediately for check-up, but none was found ill,” said Monirul Islam, Block Medical Officer.

“Most of the students were released immediately after check-up. Two or three of them were kept in the hospital overnight under observation. However, all of them were released today (Saturday),” said Mr Islam, also the Superintendent of Onda Super-Specialty Hospital.

Police also said none of the students fell ill.