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February - March 2006

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Dispatches & Reports

World Hindus furious as Russian Archbishop calls Lord Krishna an ‘evil demon’

Hindus all over the world have expressed outrage and anger after a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Nikon called the Hindu God, Lord Krishna an ‘evil demon’ around the time of Indian Prime Minister’s state visit to Moscow to meet Russian President Putin.

In a letter to the Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov, wired by Interfax news agency on November 30, Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Nikon called Lord Krishna “an evil demon, the personified power of hell opposing God”, and “a livid lascivious youth”.

The Archbishop further requested the Mayor to ban construction of a proposed Hindu temple in Moscow saying it would otherwise become “an idolatrous disgrace erected for the glory of wicked and malicious ‘god’ Krishna”.

“Construction of the temple to Krishna offends our religious feelings and insults the thousand-year religious culture of Russia,” Interfax quoted Archbishop Nikon as saying.

“We cannot believe that in this age of respect and multi-cultural co-existence, a leader of the Russian Church chooses to make statements that are intolerant and disrespectful to one billion Hindus in the world,” said Kishore Ruparelia, speaking on behalf of the Defend Russian Hindus Campaign launched in London last week.

“The motives for spreading such hatred are clear – it is an attempt to discriminate and harass the Hindu community in Russia and stop them from building a temple,” explained Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain. “It is unbelievable that a leader of such a powerful Church can make such disgraceful and dogmatic attempts to instigate tension between different religions. This is completely against all principles of multi-faith co-existence and cooperation that ancient and inclusive religious traditions like Hinduism stand for.”

“The statement by Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church has hurt the sentiments of millions of Hindus worldwide,” commented O P Sharma, President of the National Council of Hindu Temples UK. “It is an insult to the tradition of tolerance, peace and inclusivity that Hinduism stands for, and highlights the resentment that dogmatic and exclusive views on religion can generate.”

President of the Association of Indians in Russia Sanjeet K. Jha said, “For centuries faith in Lord Krishna has been the very foundation of the Indian tradition of tolerance and respect for all religions and for all life. Therefore the shower of offences that Archbishop Nikon decided to publicly pour on Lord Krishna caused us intolerable pain and evoked bitterness and indignation in our hearts.”

According to several Moscow-based Indians, the discriminatory move by the Moscow government, the harassment of Indians by Russian ultra-nationalistic groups, inspired by open hostility of some Church leaders towards Hinduism, is making Russia a less than appealing place for Indians to live.

“Hindus are one of the world’s most peaceful communities,” commented Dr Girdhari Bhan, President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK. “In most countries of the world, the Hindu diaspora is law-abiding, integrated and productive. Archbishop Nikon should have considered the peaceful history of Hinduism before making such atrocious statements that will surely be rejected by people of common sense and dignity.”

“It is difficult to understand why a Hindu temple poses a threat to the Russian Orthodox Church in this day of respect and tolerance,” added Ramesh Kallidai. “The only Hindu temple in Moscow had been demolished last year, leaving some 15,000 Indians and 10,000 Russian followers of Hinduism without a place of worship. Now the Mayor of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church are together trying to stop Hindus from having a place of their own.”

According to Mr. Jha, In January 2004, the Mayor of Moscow Mr.Luzhkov signed a decree allocating land in northwest Moscow for construction of a new temple in place of the demolished one. This was followed by mass protests orchestrated by the Russian Orthodox Church against the building of the temple. In October 2005 the Mayor repealed the decree and gave the order to remove a temporary Hindu shrine that devotees had erected from the allocated land.

“Now, the Russian Hindu community in Moscow have no place to house the consecrated Deities they had worshipped for the last decade,” claimed Dr Mihir Meghani, President of the Hindu American Foundation. “This is a pity because this was the only Hindu temple in Moscow serving the spiritual and cultural needs of thousands of Hindus in Russia, and now they are left without any place to worship.”

According to Mr. Jha, the statement by Archbishop Nikon just adds to the exasperation felt by Indian community in Moscow in regard to the razed temple. “With the old temple demolished and the new temple project thwarted at the very root, thousands of Indians living in Moscow feel utterly disappointed,” he added.

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had discussed this matter with President Putin during his recent visit to Moscow. Putin has agreed to meet the Mayor of Moscow to find out more about the issue.

Indian High Commissioner Kamlesh Sharma opens Leicestershire India Trade Bureau.

“The Indian community in Britain has distinguished itself by being self-reliant and has a reputation of being dynamic and successful.” These were the words of Kamlesh Sharma, Indian High Commissioner to the UK while delivering his inaugural speech at the official launch of Leicestershire Indian Trade Bureau.

The pompous event took place at New Walk Museum in Leicester on 6th December and was well attended by more than 80 luminaries having an interest in establishing trade links with India. Some of the prominent personalities who graced the occasion include: Leicester Shire Economic Partnership Chief Executive Kishor Tailor, Senior Developer of Leicestershire Promotions Pankaj Mistry, Leader of the Leicester City Council Roger Blackmore, Leader of Leicestershire County Council David Parsons and Chairman of India Trade Bureau Steering Committee Yakoob Dassu.
Funded by Leicester Shire Economic Partnership (LSEP), UK Trade and Investment, Business Link and Leicester City Council; India Trade Bureau is set to advise and support any company which recognizes the potential of trading with India where the market is expanding rapidly or Indian businesses looking to trade in Europe from the sub-region.

Addressing the guests at the function, India Trade Bureau Chief Manager Mahendra Mistry said, “The launch of this Bureau is just a starting point. We want to use our expertise to help businesses in Leicestershire forge trade links with India and vice versa. We have already had an influx of inquiries about mergers and joint ventures from various companies from India and UK.”

“We have officially linked this Bureau with South Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and are very soon organizing a Trade Mission to India. Also, we’ve been able to assist Ahmedabad based Gujarat State Export Corporation locate an appropriate warehouse site near Nottingham East Midlands Airport”, he added.

Being first of its kind in UK, services offered by Leicestershire India Trade Bureau would benefit more the Indian companies to penetrate lucrative British market as statistics reveals that Investments from Indian businesses into the UK has jumped nearly 30% more during the fiscal year 2004/05.

(Report by Hemang Palan)

ICICI Bank UK opens branch in Wembley

ICICI Bank UK Limited, a subsidiary of ICICI Bank, India’s second largest Bank, today opened its fifth branch in UK in the popular London suburb of Wembley. The Wembley branch is located at 47 Ealing Road, Wembley, Middx, HA0 4BF and will be open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The chief guest, Mr. Barry Gardiner MP, UK Minister for Competitiveness inaugurated the branch.

Mr Sonjoy Chatterjee, MD & CEO of ICICI Bank UK Ltd said, "ICICI Bank is delighted with the tremendous positive response from local residents and businesses for our services which reinforces our confidence that we have an unique offering for local people. We are a full service bank in the UK, meaning that we can provide services ranging from current and savings accounts just as the other mainstream banks. We also have India based services such as money remittances and India mortgages."

ICICI Bank UK Limited set up its first branch in Knightsbridge, London in November 2003. Now, the Bank has a network of branches in Leicester, Southall, Manchester, Knightsbridge and Wembley. Apart from offering the basic retail and corporate banking activities, ICICI Bank UK also offers mainstream products such as HI-SAVE, which is an online no-frills savings product with an excellent savings rate at 5.15% AER. ICICI Bank UK also has a strategic alliance with Lloyds TSB of UK, for offering a host of India linked banking services such as India mortgages, remittances, NRI Savings accounts and other NRI deposit products to NRI customers through Lloyds Bank’s branches.

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