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and food and vacations, too.

Month: June 2016

India Doesn’t Need International Day of Yoga

In October 2013, I was invited to be a part of a group on Facebook. They called themselves progressive thinkers of the city and they would meet every month and debate and discuss various issues, social and political.

The first time we met, they were discussing the evils of patriarchy, which quickly turned into men discussing stigma against menstruating women, which quickly went on to Yoga and eventually concluded that Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister of India, and who was the Chief Minister then, is the root of all evil.

Ah, well. In Ahmedabad, like rest of India, you are progressive only if you hate Modi and stand against any and everything he stands for.

One Mr. Mishra, an aethist, who took extreme pride in hating Modi, said, “I would love to do Yoga, but I don’t want to chant Om.”


A Yoga enthusiast said, “Well, then don’t. Just stay quiet at that time,” Mr. Mishra said, no. He is so anti establishment that he refuses to take instructions from anyone. I think Mr. Mishra may have been on substance which takes peace of mind to another level.

Last year, the UN declared 21st June as International Day of Yoga. The progressive, liberal thinkers of the country where Yoga originated dismissed it. This saffronisation would ruin the secular fabric of the nation.

Except, Yoga is as liberal as Indian Liberals. Indian Liberals hate everyone equally and Yoga benefits everyone equally, irrespective of faith they follow.

But then liberals are quick to point out that if you want to do it, practice it in your homes, why make a spectacle out of it? No one sees the irony when they advocate Earth Hour (by switching off power for an hour once a year) or World Environment Day (by planting a plant). Well, you could practice the same things at your place without letting the world know too, right?

But because Prime Minister Modi endorses it, how can we let it be a success? Blasphemy!

But take a moment and understand why International Day of Yoga could actually benefit India as a country.

Other than making people aware of health benefits (my mum has has issues with her knees since forever. She took up Yoga 3 months back, she can now actually sit on a low lying stool, which she couldn’t earlier.) of Yoga, Yoga could actually help Indian economy.

Here is how:

In November, 2014, the Government of India undertook some major visa reforms last year, expanding visa-on-arrival scheme to 43 nationalities from 12 countries earlier. It now offers e-tourist visa facility to nationals of 150 countries.

Earlier in June, the government announced that it would give tourist visa and e-tourist visa to foreigners willing to undergo short-term courses on yoga in its bid to popularise the ancient spiritual and ascetic practice globally. Attending a short-term yoga programme will be included in the list of permissible activities under tourist visa. Besides, the government also decided to include short duration medical treatment under Indian systems of medicine in the list of permissible activities under e-tourist visa.

According to a report by World Travel and Tourism Council, India’s travel and tourism economy waspoised to grow 7.5% in 2015 over 2014, exceeding the 6.9% growth that the global forum has predicted for the South Asian region.

In 2014, the industry contributed Rs7.64 trillion and 36.7 million jobs to the Indian economy. By the end of 2015, the travel and tourism sector was expected to contribute Rs8.22 trillion or 7% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 37.4 million jobs — almost 9% of total employment.

So, you get foreign currency inflow, you get tourists, who help in generating employment, and you also get a bit healthier if you practice Yoga. If it is so good for the nation, of course it has to be condemned. How dare Narendra Modi dream of doing anything good for India?


How NYTimes Misreports Riots

Today was the verdict of Gulbarg massacre that took place during the 2002 riots in Gujarat. 2002 riots were one of the worst riots ever took place in Gujarat, a state which is prone to communal riots. Before 2002, the worst riots in Gujarat history took place in 1969 during Hitendra Desai, a Congress chief minister, rule, which saw death of over 660 people (official, unofficial number is pegged over 2000) died, mostly, Muslims.

I don’t want to get into how fair/unfair the verdict is. I am no legal expert.

But I will take it upon myself to correct the international media when they write about my beloved Gujarat. I was going through this NYTimes piece on the verdict.

I want to show how an international publication either misrepresents the facts, or chooses to completely ignore stating them.

Ellen Barry, South Asia bureau chief of NYTimes, in her article writes

A judge in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, acquitted 36 people for lack of evidence, including a police inspector and a midranking official in the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Mr. Modi.

Agree. I like how she describes Ahmedabad as Gujarat’s largest city, but misses out on the fact that it was no ordinary judge. He was a special judge appointed for the special court.

Rest of the article is in poor taste, but I will not let my political inclination cloud my dislike for Barry.

However, my blood started boiling when she quoted Teesta Setalvad and described her as “an activist who has spearheaded a campaign to prosecute Gujarat officials”. She very conveniently forgot to give the disclaimer that Setalvad is accused by residents of Gulbarg society of embezzling donation money they collected for building a museum. The Supreme Court has said Setalvad and her husband not to be arrested and they need to provide all documents needed.

Barry could have given this little disclaimer to give the international readers a fair chance at getting a balanced view.

Anyway, Barry then describes how the 2002 riots started.

The Gujarat riots began on a February morning, when a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was surrounded by a mob of Muslims and caught fire at a train platform in Godhra. An investigation later concluded that the fire had been accidental, but it was widely blamed on Muslims. The remains of 59 people burned to death on the train were displayed in Ahmedabad, stoking anti-Muslim fury.

Hmm. She quotes a 2002 archived piece, which says this is how the riots started:

An angry Muslim mob Wednesday morning set fire to a train loaded with Hindu activists who are seeking to build a temple on the site of a demolished mosque, killing 58 people and raising anxiety that the attack would set off a spiral of religious violence.

More than a dozen children were among those burned to death as some in the mob, who had been stoning the coaches, set fire to the train, probably with gasoline from a nearby pump, after it pulled out of a station in the western state of Gujarat, officials and witnesses said.

Ah, well.

She states an investigation concluded fire had been accidental. Please give appropriate link to such investigation. Well, then Farooq Mohammad Bhana, who’s arrested under charges of conspiracy to set the train on fire must be innocent.

This is how Times of India describes Bhana’s alleged involvement:

ATS officials said Bhana, who was on the run for 14 years, was staying in the slums of Andheri (east) in Mumbai under the fake identity of Mohammed Umar for the last seven years. He even did some petty work on contractual basis at the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation. “We have seized some forged identity documents from him,” said an ATS official.

In 2002, Bhana was an independent councillor in the Godhra municipality, representing Polan Bazar ward. His arrest is considered a prized catch as investigators say he was involved in the alleged train burning conspiracy “right from the beginning till the end.”

J K Bhatt, inspector general of police, ATS, said, “We suspect that Bhana could have visited Pakistan while being on the run. He was staying in Mumbai for the last seven years. We are probing whether he had procured a fake passport.” He was remanded in eight-day SIT custody.

Elaborating on Bhana’s role in the train carnage, ATS officials said that he was present at a meeting in Aman Guest House where the conspiracy to burn the train was hatched on February 26, 2002. “Bhana had allegedly instructed other conspirators about the attack plan and directed them to store 140 litres of petrol to burn the coach,” said Bhatt.

J R Mothaliya, member of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing Godhra train carnage, said that Bhana was involved in the “entire planning, right from the beginning till the end”.

Bhana was arrested on May 18, 2016. Btw, NYTimes did not report on Bhana being arrested. Guess it wasn’t important enough. Guess, Barry has finally adopted Indian and Indian media when it comes to reporting news.

Barry, welcome to India. We love you.