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October - November 2008


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Lashker-e-taiba behind Delhi Bombers

The September 13 bomb blasts in Delhi were carried out by a team of 13, nine of whom are still on the run, claims Delhi Police.

Addressing the media, Karnal Singh, Joint Commissioner (special cell) confirmed the link between Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba and Indian Mujahidins, an offshoot of SIMI. Police confirmed that they had found evidence which suggested that Bashir played a key role in the blasts in UP courts, Ahmedabad and Jaipur and the failed attack on Surat. This was revealed on questioning Saif and Zeeshan, another terrorist who was arrested from near Jhandewalan as well as from intelligence reports gathered from five states. Bashir was the commander of Indian Mujahidin and seemed to have been indoctrinated by alQaida and its chief, Osama bin Laden. His laptop contained material on Al Qaida and bin Laden.


Next target goa?

By the time you read this news item, Goa would be blasted by a few bombs. It seems Kerala police has informed the Karnataka administration that trains leaving Bangalore for Goa are carrying explosives. Even Delhi police has informed about some sort of confessional statements made by the accused of Delhi blasts.

Let us hope the culprits are arrested before they kill more innocent people.


Ahmedabad - den of terrorists

There is news from ahmedabad that the crime branch has found a tenement in Narol area close to the Ahmedabad-Vadodara Expressway. The tenement was occupied for a month by Atif alias Rashid ad Fakruddin besides other bombers. Police found batteries, two bicycle carriers which matched with those used to carry the bombs, utensils and a map of the city, from this apartment.


India will support Serbia on Kosovo

On the issue of Kosovo’s independence, India has at last taken a brave step to support Serbia against unilateral independence declared by Kosovo.

Kosovo had unilaterally declared independence fom Serbia in February. Out of the 192 UN nations, only 47, including the US, have recogised Kosovo’s independence; but Russia China and India have opposed it.


UK provide £150,000 to help those affected by Indian floods

The Department for International Development (DFID) have asked UNICEF to redirect £150,000 of an existing Trust Fund for immediate assistance to those who have been made homeless by the severe floods in the Bihar region, India.

The funding will be used to supply up to 20 camps which currently house 10,000 displaced families with clean water, shelter and sanitation.

International Development Minister, Shahid Malik said:

"The situation in Bihar is particularly serious and the UK has responded quickly to provide help to those affected. We are in contact with the Government of Bihar and are on standby to step up assistance if needed. We will continue to monitor the situation closely"


Hindu-Christian clashes in Mangalore

The Indian media has presented a distorted version of Hindu-Christian clashes in Mangalore.

Here are the facts. A book called– Satya Darshini – distributed by the missionaries of New Life contained abusive language against Hindu gods.

This book is in Kannada and the translation of the abusive passage is as follows. Urvashi – the daughter of Lord Vishnu – is a prostitute. Vashitha is the son of this prostitute. He in turn married his own Mother. Such a degraded person is the Guru of the Hindu God Rama. (page 48)

When Krishna himself is wallowing in darkness of hell, how can he enlighten others? Since Krishna himself is a shady character, there is a need for us to liberate his misled followers. (page 50)·

It was Brahma himself who kidnapped Sita. Since Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva were themselves the victims of lust, it is a sin to consider them as Gods. (page 39)

When the Trinity of Hinduism (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) are consumed by lust and anger, how can they liberate others. Their projection as Gods is nothing but a joke. (page 39).

When Vishnu asked Brahma to commit a sin, he immediately did so. How can such a "evil brahma" be a Creator of this Universe? How is it possible for both the sinner and the entity which provoked the sin to be gods? (page 39)

God, please liberate the sinful people of India who are worshipping False Gods that believe in the pleasures of illicit 'Vyabichari' relationships. (Page 39).

All the 16 incidents that took place were not attack on Churches. In fact, unauthorized prayer halls were attacked where the blasphemous pamphlets were distributed and aggressive proselytisation was taking place. These 16 incidents were not localized but took place across three districts of Mangalore, Udupi and Chikmagalur. The only place where attacks took place apart from New Life Prayer Halls was at a small prayer hall in the premises of Milagres Church in Mangalore, where some miscreants had damaged a Jesus idol. The VHP and the Bajrang Dal have condemned the attack at this place. Following this incident, a Christian mob gathered and the situation went out of control as the mob started pelting stones and disrupting traffic. The police was forced to intervene and this resulted in unsavoury violence. Since the past two days, it is not Hindu-Christian clashes that are taking place. In fact, it is more appropriate to call it"Christian-Police" clashes since the Christians holed up in Churches have engaged themselves in pelting of stones and disruption of traffic. The Police were forced to enter the Church to clear the mob and they found arms inside the Church. Incidents of Stabbing were reported in around four or five places across Mangalore district. In fact, an activist belonging to Shri Ram Sena was stabbed which led to a bandh call by Shri Ram Sena – a Hindu outfit that is not connected to Sangh Parivar.

The VHP and the Bajrang Dal have condemned the desecration of Jesus idol at the prayer hall adjacent to the Milagres Church in Mangalore. They have also clarified that they are not against the Catholic faith and the Churches. However, they have clarified that the public outcry would continue as long as illicit conversion activities and blasphemy of Hindu gods take place.

Even the Kandhmahal murder — which involved the killing of Hindu monk Swami Lakshmananda by missionaries – seems to have cast a shadow on this incident since the general public seems to have seen through Christian aggression. It may be recalled that there was a public outcry against illegal prayer halls in Davanagere district last week. In that case, the administration had closed the unauthorized prayer halls that were mushrooming in the region.


USA

HURRICANE IKE ADVENTURES OF A HOUSTON RESIDENT

Hi, Thank you for your calls, messages, suggestions, good wishes and concerns for the recent coming of IKE in Houston and its aftermath. A brief summary of what I experienced follows, to give you an idea of how I coped with a disaster like this and some adventures I went through.

IKE made landfall in Galveston, TX late in the evening of Friday, 12 September, 2008 and in a few hours arrived in Houston, uninvited. IKE lost most of its fury over Galveston and the coastal areas and by the time it got to central Houston (about 40 miles from Galveston), it packed sustained winds of about 75mph, and of course a lot of rain, mostly horizontal. I watched it all on TV till about 3 am, when we lost power in Houston. I tried to activate a battery powered radio but it refused to work since it had not been used for a long time. So the best thing to do was to try and get some sleep and hope for the best.

Saturday morning I got up and we still had high winds and rain, which gradually diminished in the afternoon. There was no power and no water service. Phone service was sporadic at best as many cell phone towers were damaged and the network couldn’t handle the heavy volume. My land line service was also disrupted.

Just looking around where I live and then venturing outside on foot late Saturday afternoon, I could see that there was extensive damage: trees down, lots of tree limbs strewn all over, some roofs and windows blown away, signs and utility wires all over the place, etc. There didn’t seem to be much structural damage (hoorah for good structural engineers like myself!). Most roads and side streets were blocked by trees, utility lines and other flying debris.

I had prepared for IKE based on the warnings issued prior to its arrival and had stocked up on essential supplies which I might need, since loss of power had been predicted. I had a gallon of milk ($3.49), boxed breakfast cereals, bread, several varieties of cheese, fresh fruits, bananas ($0.49 per pound), sandwich meats, bottled fruit juices, two gallons of drinking water. I had also put two bags of ice in the refrigerator (one in the freezer) to extend the life of perishables and slow down spoilage in case of a power failure. I had

prepared my car with a full tank of gasoline ($3.36 a US gallon, which is 3.78 liters) in case I had to evacuate. I had an ample supply of candles, courtesy of Mary who loved to serve dinner by candlelight when she still graced me with her presence, before becoming a victim of cancer in 2002.

I was pretty well prepared for whatever IKE was to bring. No electrical power also meant no hot water, but if there is no water one is less concerned about hot water. When water (cold) was restored on Sunday, it was a big relief and a shower was the first thing I wanted. At that stage I wasn’t interested in hot water: I only wanted water to take a shower! It brought back memories of growing up in India, many a moon ago. The first time Mary went to India (1965) and had to do without hot water, she characterized it as being on a camping trip. And that’s exactly what it felt like in Houston, circa 2008, courtesy IKE.

The milk finally deserted me on Monday morning (15 September), coming out of the container in big globules. So, I used that as an excuse to venture out to see what was happening in the neighborhood. I walked to a big grocery store about half mile away and was greeted by long lines. They didn’t have any milk or fruits and left me no choice but to return empty handed. As luck would have it, I ran into a neighbor who offered to give me some soy milk (which doesn’t require refrigeration). Fortified with another cold shower and a cereal breakfast, sans coffee, I felt the time had come to venture out in the car and hunt for hot coffee. Conditions were not too bad and luckily, I did find a place to sit and have a leisurely lunch (hamburger, fries and several cups of coffee), having gotten tired of eating cold (luke warm?) sandwiches.

One beneficial side effect of IKE was that it helped cool us down considerably (around 10 degrees, F). Thus the absence of AC wasn’t overly felt, with the windows open. In fact, on Monday night, a front passed Houston to bring unseasonably cooler temperatures. Monday night, the low temperature in Houston was around 55 degrees F (normal being around 70) and I had to not only close the windows but also had to scramble for a blanket (in places like Houston, 55 F feels cold because one is not used to it in September). Sadly, the cool weather did not last long and we are back to our normal highs of around 90 F and lows about 70 F (32 and 21 on the Centigrade scale).

Electrical power to the area of Houston I live in was restored Monday evening, With the cooler temperatures already prevailing, the most welcome part was getting hot water and being able to charge the cell phone, turn on the TV, get on the internet and to re-establish contact with the world and find out what has been going on. And to be able to drink tea/coffee whenever one wanted to!! The big chore was to clean out the refrigerator and get rid of all the frozen foods which were spoiled.

I feel that I have been very, very lucky and so has Houston. I was reasonably well prepared and my biggest problem was trying to pass the time while waiting for electrical power to be restored. It is times like this that force one to reflect on things and one’s life in general. I am thankful that all I suffered was some relatively minor inconveniences. A lot of people lost their homes, were flooded out and had to be taken to shelters.

So to pass the time, I took many walks through the neighborhood to see the damage and how people are coping with the loss of modern conveniences. I got to know my neighbors better. I re-read Ved Mehta’s inspiring first book (FACE TO FACE), about his life up to the age of 22, written (rather, dictated) the same summer. I had read this account of his life a long time ago and found his trials and tribulations and the way he handled them to be very inspiring. I highly recommend this book to those who havn’t read it.

This natural disaster reminded me of another major upheaval I went through when I lived in Buffalo, NY and was there for the infamous blizzard of 1977, Fortunately, I was with Mary then which made it easier to cope with. We went through a very similar experience: loss of electrical power and heat for several days and a whole lot of snow, and came through unscathed.

I have, off and on in the last few years, after losing Mary, toyed with the idea of moving to California. But after the experience of the blizzard in Buffalo and now the hurricane IKE, have concluded that natural disasters follow me. So I think I’ll spare the people in California a major earthquake by not moving there. See, how considerate I am!!!

It is now about 10 days since IKE visited us and the recovery process is well under way. As of Sunday, 21 September, there are still about 35% of the people in this area without power. Most major arteries have been cleaned up and are drivable. The grocery stores are open and there are no shortages of any foods, except perhaps of frozen foods which are being replenished daily. No problems with gasoline, inspite of the fact that several refineries in the coastal areas of Texas are still not operational. Traffic is slow because there are a lot of traffic lights in need of repair. Debris cleanup is somewhat slow but aside from being eye sores, is not hindering anything. I havn’t seen or heard of any price escalations or price gouging. Schools are going to start opening next week and most businesses will be back to normal next week. Mail service should get back to normal in a few days .Galveston and the coastal areas will take a while to recover, perhaps months, because the damage is so extensive. The residents of Galveston who were under the mandatory evacuation order have not yet been allowed to come back (expected to be allowed next week). A lot of the information about Galveston is what I see in the media and I have no first hand information about that.

Since the restoration of electrical power, I have been spending time catching up with the events in the US and the world. I’m keeping up with the adventures of McPain, as somebody has dubbed the McCain and Palin Republican ticket. It is amazing that Palin claims a lot of knowledge of the world because she can see Russia from Alaska! It is like the birds who want overhead utility wires to be left intact because they like to sit on them! Amazing indeed! Let us see what other words of wisdom flow from these two.

The economic melt down on Wall Street has been a disaster. In my view it was a bomb waiting to explode. The American system works only with transparency and honesty. Both of these qualities appear to be lacking at the top levels of Wall Street (following the machinations of the Shrub, aka George Bush). I don’t think everything is out in the open yet and I hope the world has fastened their seat belts for the economic turbulence on the horizon.

The hurricane season ends the last day of November and I am keeping my fingers crossed. I hope to start preparing for the next hurricane very soon. After all that I went through, I have learnt a few things and plan to add canned/soy milk, a new battery operated radio and perhaps a small camping type stove to the list of things I should have for the next big one. I hope it waits till next year!!

Que sera, sera. I wish only good things for you, always.


FBI probes the murder of Indian student

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has joined the probe into the murder of a 23-year-old Indian student who was found dead in St. Louis, Missouri.

On Saturday morning, Soumya Tummala, an electrical engineering student from Andhra Pradesh, was found dead in a car in a park in St. Louis, about 25 km from the Southern Illinois University (SIU) where she studied.

The police are treating it as a case of homicide, Ron Schaefer, director of international programmes at SIU's Edwardsville campus, told IANS.

According to the St. Louis county police, a parkgoer had reported that somebody was lying slumped in a car, which led to the discovery of Tummala's body.

Detectives believe Tummala was shot dead between Friday night and Saturday morning. They are trying to find what she was doing in St. Louis and what led to her killing.

Police said the FBI joined the case on Monday morning because the body of the Illinois resident was found in another state.

University officials said they were cooperating with the St. Louis authorities to quickly repatriate the body of the student. On Sunday, the university made contact with Tummala's family in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh to break the sad news to her mother.

Vishwas Satpal, the Indian consul in Chicago, told IANS that the consulate was quickly processing the documentation so that the slain student's body can be sent to India at the earliest.

Tummala was a student with a very good standing in her department, Schaefer said, adding that she would have graduated in summer 2009.

She is perhaps the first female Indian student murdered in recent memory in the US, leaving aside Minal Panchal, who was one of the 32 victims of a massacre on Virginia Tech campus in April last year.

At least four Indian students have been found murdered in the US since the sensational double murder of A. Kiran Kumar and K. Chandrasekhar Reddy, both PhD students from Andhra Pradesh, at Louisiana University in December 2007.

Abhijit Mahato, of Jharkhand, studying for his doctoral degree in engineering at Duke University in North Carolina, was found dead in January 2008. In March, A. Srinivas, a postgraduate medical student from Karimnagar was killed.


Forbes Award for Laxmi Mittal

American business magazine Forbes conferred the third Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award to India-born steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal. The award honours heroes of entrepreneurial capitalism and free enterprise. Mittal got the award at Forbes Global CEO Conference, held in Singapore and attended by more than 450 business leaders with a combined net worth of more than $160 billion from across the world.


US asks Indian govt to protect religious freedom

Washington, September 20: Taking note of the recent violence against the Christian community in India, the US has asked the Indian government to protect the religious freedom throughout the country.

"We urge all parties to refrain from violence and urge government officials to protect religious freedom throughout India and thus preserve India's longstanding tradition of religious tolerance," said Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, John Hanford.

He made the remarks while presenting the 10th Annual State Department Report on International Religious Freedom, which is mandated every year by the United States Congress.

"Despite the central government's efforts to foster communal harmony, we have seen more violence against Christians in the state of Orissa, where religious factors, combined with underlying social, economic, and ethnic grievances, have sparked unrest, just in the past few weeks," Hanford said.

He said "we are also concerned about the killing of a prominent Hindu religious leader that sparked the recent unrest in the state."

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