NEW - Vedic/Hindu Calendar for 2013

NEW - Vedic/Hindu Calendar for 2013
Shri Ramapir Mandir/Temple in Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

25 Hindu girls abducted every month, claims HRCP official in Sindh , Pakistan

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
By By Rabia Ali

As many as 20 to 25 girls from the Hindu community are abducted every month and converted forcibly, said Amarnath Motumal, an advocate and council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

“There is no official record to support this statement, but according to estimates, in Karachi alone, a large number of Hindu girls are being kidnapped on a routine basis,” Motumal told The News. “The families of the victims are scared to register cases against the influential perpetrators as death threats are issued to them in case they raise their voice. So, the victims choose to remain silent to save their lives,” he said.

Motumal said the word ‘Hindu’ had become an insult and a kind of abuse for the Hindu community. “Almost 90 per cent of the Hindu community comprise poor and impoverished families whose needs and rights have been neglected by the ones at the helms of power,” he said, adding that since a majority of the people feel helpless, only a few families come to him with their cases.

A former MPA, Bherulal Balani, said that the Hindu girls, especially the ones belonging to scheduled castes, were mostly being abducted from the Lyari area. “Once the girls are converted, they are then sold to other people or are forced to do illegal and immoral activities,” Balani said. He added the perpetrators were very powerful and that was the reason that no cases were being registered against them.

The number of attacks against the Hindu community has increased in the interior Sindh during the last three months. At least nine incidents have been reported which range from forced conversion of Hindus to rape and murders.

In one incident, a 17-year-old girl ‘K’ was gang-raped in Nagarparker area. In another incident, a 15-year-old girl ‘D’ was allegedly abducted from Aaklee village, Tharparkar, and was forced to convert. About 71 families migrated from the village in protest against the girl’s abduction.

Moreover, the Hindu communities were not even spared on the occasion of their joyous festival of Holi as two girls, Anita and Kishni, were kidnapped in Kotri. Moreover, two Hindu boys, Ajay and Sagar, were abducted from another place on the same day.

One Amir Gul was murdered in the beginning of March in Tando Haider, Umerkot, allegedly by a landlord. Later in the month, a boy, Kishan Kumar, was kidnapped from Kandhkot, Jacobabad.

MPA Pitamber Sewani told The News that these acts were being done by certain elements who believe that these minority communities might support the government in the upcoming local bodies’ elections, and these elements want to harass them.

However, President Pakistan Hindu Council Ramesh Kumar criticised the minorities’ representatives for not raising their voice at relevant forums. He said that they were simply representing their respective parties and not the poor people. He added that poor economic conditions had led to an increase in kidnapping cases in the province, especially in the Kandhkot and Jacobabad areas.

Coordinator HRCP Task Force Sindh Dr Ashothama Lohano told The News the according to their one fact-finding report, the most affected persons of violence belonged to Hindu and Christian communities. He said that various reasons have been cited for this. “The recent wave of extremism is one reason, which has destroyed the harmony of the land of Sufis. Another reason is the destruction of the agriculture sector and small markets that has led to frustration and lawlessness. Yet another reason is that the elected representatives are working only for the party and not for the community,” Dr Lohano added.

He further said that minority communities were easy targets as the Hindus were generally hesitant to raise voice against the injustices. “When the Hindu communities become politically active, they are blamed for having Indian connections,” doctor Lohano said.

March 30th – Birthday of Lord Hanuman, Happy Hanuman Jayanti from *PHP

- Hanuman Jayanti Greetings to everyone as it is the birthday of Lord Hanuman and is observed on the full moon (Purnima) day in the Hindu month of Chaitra (March – April) as per traditional lunar Hindu calendar. This year it is doubly auspicious as the Jayanti day falls on Tuesday or Mangalwar which is dedicated to Hanuman. Lord Hanuman is also known as Bajrang Bali and Anjaneya and is one of the most popular gods in Hinduism. He is a Chiranjeevi meaning the one blessed with immortality. 

In Andhra Pradesh, Hanumant Jayanti is observed after a 41-day Deeksha which begins on Chaitra Purnima and in 2010 the date is June 7. In Tamil Nadu, Hanuman Jayanti is observed during the Margazhi month (December – January). Another popular day dedicated to Hanuman is the Hanumantha Vrata observed in Margashirsh month (November – December) in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. 

What is Lord Hanuman’s relevance in today’s society?  

In today’s society of convulsions, inertia, selfishness, moral and social, spiritual and ethical decay, Lord Hanuman has become the standard bearer and the embodiment of courage, self-control, power, selfless service, bravery, integrity and humility.

Arshed Masih, 38 Christian man set on fire in Pakistan

Arshed Masih, 38 Christian man set on fire in Rawalipindi,Pakistan
Police have been accused of setting a Christian man on fire in the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan. 

Witnesses to the burning of Arshed Masih, 38, said his last words were: "The police set me on fire."

AsiaNews has reported Mr Arshed's funeral was held on Wednesday amid tight security. 

It is widely believed he was burned alive because he refused to convert to Islam at the insistence of his Muslim employer. 

There have been suggestions that police were acting on instructions of the employer.

Arshed had told his boss he refused to convert to Islam and in the past had also complained that police officers had repeatedly raped his wife. 

So far the police have arrested none of the alleged perpetrators. 

The 38 year-old Pakistani Christian was the father of three children, aged 7 to 12. The children and their mother are sleeping in the hospital because they are now homeless. 

Arshed died on 22nd March following the assault, with burns to 80% of his body. --

Sindhi Hindu writers from both sides of the border exploring the Sindhi experience of Partition and the creation of Pakistan

Rita Kothari has selected and translated into English narratives by first-generation Sindhi writers from both sides of the border exploring the Sindhi experience of Partition and the creation of Pakistan. 

By Monideepa Sahu 

Unlike those displaced by the Partition of Punjab and Bengal, the Sindhi Hindus did not have a place to call their own when they arrived in India, since Sindh was retained entirely by Pakistan. In Mohan Kalpana’s story, ‘In Exile’, an Indian Sahib explains the precarious condition of a refugee from Sindh. “Right now, you are neither in India nor Pakistan. You are a refugee. A refugee! You do not have a home either here or there.” Confused and pained Joharmal in Narayan Bharti’s ‘The Claim’ expresses poignantly the Sindhi experience of losing forever not just farmlands or a house, but an entire ethos, lost friends and neighbours, streets, rivers of a homeland which belongs to every Sindhi.  

Apart from the recurring Partition fiction trope of a difficult and sorrowful journey of millions of people leaving their homeland, these stories also explore how those who stayed behind in the new Pakistan had to come to terms with a suddenly unrecognisable nation. According to Acharya Kripalani, Sindhis of all faiths were “powerfully influenced by Sufi and Vedantic thoughts. This made for tolerance.”
The threat to Sindhi Hindus after the formation of Pakistan became strong after Muslim immigrants driven out from the rest of India entered Sindh. These stories explore how hatred was spread amongst a peaceful and prosperous community. Khanu the barber in Sheikh Ayaz’s ‘The Neighbour’ “began to wonder how he would be able to slit the throats of those he had spent hours with, eating and drinking and making merry in their company.” Vishnu Bhatia in ‘The Uprooted’ portrays the spread of communal hatred and the seemingly foolish yet touching refusal of an old refugee to accept this. “How long could anyone have lasted shrouded in fear? People who had never thought of themselves as Hindus or Muslims now knew that Hindus were infidels, and Muslims, scoundrels. So much for brotherhood! Hindus have no right to live on this land. A political decision managed to do what pandits and moulvis could not. Hatred had spread like poison and an entire community was uprooted from its land and thrown into the waters of the Arabian Sea.”   

Today, Kothari points out, the Sindhi community has spread out all over the world, successfully establishing themselves in business and various professions. Yet even those living in India cannot visit Sindh or even afford to talk about it, since Sindh now lies in what the rest of India considers a hostile foreign country. Sindh is now an idea without physical dimensions, a place which Sindhis cannot even visit in reality or memory. This perhaps explains why Sindhis have maintained silence about their past and rarely shared their wounds and stories.  

As a sociological and historical document, this collection is invaluable. Capturing the finer nuances of Indian languages in English translations is always a huge challenge. While the translation is capable, these stories do by and large read like writing by a single author, and not by the several writers whose styles and viewpoints comprise this collection.

Plight of Hindu Temples in P.O.K. or Azad Kashmir in Pakistan

Mirpur has a special place in sub-continent’s history. The famous battle between Alexandar and Porus was fought here in 323 BC.  A large number of Hindus lived in Mirpur once . Today Mirpur doesnt have any hindus living in there. Please find below the state of Hindu temples in Mirpur …Kashmir.
Ragu Nath Temple, Old Mirpur
Shivala Temple, Old Mirpur
Introduction - Mirpur (Urduمیر پور) is the largest city in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and the capital ofMirpur District. Mirpur is located at the extreme south of Azad Kashmir at an elevation of 459 metres (1509ft). It is 125 kilometres (68 miles) south east of Islamabad via the Grand Trunk Road and 295 kilometres (183 miles) south of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

In Jammu & Kashmir 170 Hindu temples vandalised in 20 years, admits Govt , India

By Mohit Kandhari | Jammu,India 

At a time when the Babri mosque demolition case is revisiting the Indian political sphere, the Jammu & Kashmir Government has on record admitted that 170 temples were damaged in militancy-related violence in the Valley over the last 20 years. 

Compared to the 1990s, however, the situation has normalised to a large extent and many temples have been thrown open to visitors and Kashmiri Pandits for carrying out daily rituals. But the majority of emigrant Pandits is still not satisfied with the pace of renovation and wants the State Government to allocate more funds and expedite the ongoing works. Several prominent Kashmiri Pandits feel that the State Government organs have failed to take proper care of the Valley’s temples, which has left many heritage buildings and religious structures in a state of ruin. 

State Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla himself admitted in the Assembly that of the 170 damaged temples, the Government had renovated only 90 to date. In reply to a question by BJP legislator Jugal Kishore Bhalla, the Minister said there were 430 temples before the Valley fell into the grip of militancy. 

While 266 temples are still intact, 170 were damaged and 90 of these have been renovated at a cost of Rs 33 lakh. At least 17 temples in sensitive areas have been provided with a security cover, he added. 

The Minister’s claims were challenged by All Parties’ Migrant Coordination Committee chairman Vinod Pandit, who demanded a White Paper on the renovation of temples in Kashmir. “I demand a White Paper enlisting details of renovation work carried out in each temple space listed as renovated by the State Government,” he said. More than 550 temples and religious springs had been vandalised, destroyed or encroached upon and even the official fora were turning a deaf ear to the problem, he claimed. 

Dr Agnishekhar, a leading force behind the Panun Kashmir movement, told The Pioneer, “In the last 20 years, the State Government has failed to renovate religious places. We feel the Government is still underestimating the extent of damage caused to the places of worship.” He also raised serious concerns over the manner in which even cremation grounds were selectively encroached upon. In addition, the State has officially acquired the land belonging to Kashmiri Pandits in various districts. The Revenue Minister also admitted that 113 kanals of land had been encroached upon in Shopian and that steps were being taken to drive away the squatters. As per official records, 10 kanals have been acquired by police in Kupwara, six kanals at Handwara (Horticulture department), nine kanals for construction of bus stand at Verinag in Anantnag, four kanals for parking space and 16 kanals for a women’s college in Baramulla, among others.

Islam, Christianity alien, so cannot get quota: BJP,India

New Delhi, (IANS) "Islam and Christianity are alien" to India and, therefore, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) feels people from the minority groups, even if their socio-economic condition is low, should not be given the privilege of quota in jobs, legislative bodies and education, a party official said Friday. 

At a press conference here, BJP's newly-appointed spokesperson Ramnath Kovind called for scrapping of the Ranganath Misra commission report that recommends 15 percent quota in government jobs for socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities in India. 

The National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by Justice Ranganath Misra, former chief justice of India, has in its report also recommended inclusion of Muslim and Christian converts as Scheduled Castes and given a quota to that category. "No, that is not possible," said Kovind. "Including Muslims and Christians in the Scheduled Castes category will be unconstitutional." 

Asked how Sikh Dalits were enjoying the quota privilege in the same category, Kovind said: "Islam and Christianity are alien to the nation." 

He said that "it is very well known" that convert Dalit Christians and Muslims get better education in convent schools. 

"The educational level of Scheduled Caste children remains much lower than that of convert Dalits and Muslims. The children of converts will grab major share of reservation in government jobs. They would become eligible to contest elections on seats reserved for Scheduled Castes. This would encourage conversion and fatally destroy the fabric of Indian society," he said. "The Misra commission report should be scrapped because (its recommendations) will jeopardise the interests of Scheduled Castes," he said. 

The Misra panel report, which was tabled in parliament Dec 18, 2009, has defined religious and linguistic minorities as backward classes and recommended 15 percent reservation for all minorities in jobs, education and welfare schemes. 

Of India's 1.2 billion population, Muslims form the largest minority at close to 14 percent, followed by Christians at 2.3 percent, Sikhs at 1.9 percent, Buddhists at 0.8 percent, Jains at 0.4 percent and others including Parsis at 0.6 percent. 

"Within the recommended 15 percent earmarked seats in institutions shall be 10 percent for the Muslims and the remaining 5 percent for the other minorities," the report had suggested. 

The recommendations have triggered a row with Hindu parties severely opposing it. The government itself is doubtful about the implementation of the recommendations. 

However, the Supreme Court in a ruling Thursday gave legitimacy to minority reservation by allowing four percent quota in jobs for backward Muslims in Andhra Pradesh. This could give a push to the Congress to go ahead with implementing the Ranganath Misra report recommendations.

First Historic Hindu Prayer to Open Senate and House of Alaska , USA


Alaska, USA (CHAKRA) – The House of Representatives in Juneau as well as Alaska State Senate will reportedly open with Hindu prayers for the first time on April 9th, by Rajan Zed,  Indo-American and Hindu statesman.  

Zed will read the opening prayers from Hindu Sanskrit scriptures.  He will read these scriptures before Senators and Representatives on April 9th.  Once he has read in Sanskrit, he will translate the prayers from Sanskrit to English.  Sanskrit is the sacred language of Hinduism and is known to be the root language of Indo-European languages. 

The Rig Veda will be used to read the prayers from, by Zed who is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism. 

The Rig Veda is the oldest known scripture in the world dated from around 1,500 BCE.  Some lines from the Bhagavad-Gita as well as the Upanishads will be read as well. Zed plans to commence and end the prayer with AUM, the mystical syllable which is the essence of the universe, used in Hinduism at the beginning and end of any prayer. 

Reciting from the Bhagavad-Gita, Zed plans to deliver the message of keeping the welfare of others in mind at all time, to the Senators and Representatives.  He also plans to say Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya, which translates to lead us from unreal to real, darkness to light and from death to immortality. 

One of the panellists for On Faith, a well-known conversation on religion between Newsweek and  He has received are the World Interfaith Leader Award which was presented to him by National Associate of Interchurch and Interfaith Families. 

The Alaska senate comprises 20 members with Gary Stevens as their president. Mike Chenault is the Speaker for the House of Representatives which is made up of 40 members.  Alaska is a beautiful place with the highest mountain peak in North America.

Hindu Ceremony For Peace In Bhutan

DAMPHU, BHUTAN, : The Hindu religious ceremony, Shri Mudh Bhagwat Puran, organised by Hindu dharma foundation of Bhutan, drew some 1,500 people to the Hindu-Buddhist temple in Damphu. The six-day ceremony will promote and preserve the country’s rich cultural heritage and pray for peace, prosperity and the well being of the country, its king and people.

An executive member of the foundation, Pundit Dr. P.L. Nirola, said that, through the ceremony, religious morals and principles will be imparted to common people. “We’ll recite religious epics like Bhagwat Mahapuran,” he said. The epic, he explained would educate people on the importance of being a good human being and teach the basic principles of dharma.

The Hindu dharma foundation of Bhutan, formed last October, is conducting religious talks for people in the six southern districts. “We’re also collecting information on how many mandirs (Hindu temples), pundits (Hindu priests), parshalas (schools) and Sanskrit students we have in the country,” Dr Nirola said.

Tsirang lam neten Wangdi said the ceremony promoted peaceful co-existence, compassion and reverence for all sentient beings. Religion, he said, was an important component of gross national happiness and the Constitution guaranteed religious freedom to all citizens. “It’s important to respect all religions,” the lam neten said.

[HPI note: To read more about Bhutanese Hindus (a poignant story that begins with the expulsion from the country of one-sixth of the population and finds a new hope in America) read the Hinduism Today article here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lamentable attitude of law enforcers : No trace of 12-year-old Hindu girl abducted in December , Pakistan

Hindu girl Nandini Missing,Karachi
KARACHI: A 12-year-old Hindu girl missing since December has not been traced by the Karachi police so far. 

According to Roshni Research and Development Welfare Organisation (RRDWO) President Muhammad Ali, the kidnapped minor Nandini was allegedly abducted by an influential individual named Younas. 

Despite hectic efforts and meetings with Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Investigation zone West-II, and letters to the concerned authorities in Sindh, the girl has not been recovered and the accused has not been arrested though an FIR No 242/2009 has been registered against him under section 365B in Police Station Super Market Karachi.

It is not the only such case as dozens of similar cases are pending and awaiting justice to be dispensed to the victims and their families. It has been observed in such cases that police only provide lip service and do not seriously hunt down the criminals. In case they are arrested, they are released from the courts as the police present a weak case and no potential evidence before the courts.

Expressing his concerns and giving reference of the kidnapping case of a 17-year-old Hindu girl, Ali said the Asian Human Rights Commission has also expressed its serious concern that four men, who allegedly assisted on January 24, 2010 in the kidnapping and rape of the girl have been granted pre-arrest bail by a session court. Rape is a non-bail able offense in Pakistan and this is against criminal procedure and the law, he said.

Instead of giving justice to the victim’s family, the police later arrested the victim’s father on a false offense, and have obstructed attempts by the family to file an FIR and obtain a medical report, disclosed the RRDWP president.

Moreover, members of an illegal tribal court have reportedly proposed that the victim should marry her rapist and convert to Islam. Whereas, the victim has threatened public self-immolation if the perpetrators are not arrested and brought to justice by the authorities, he said.

“Not arresting the rapists and rather forcing a Hindu girl, who is a rape victim, to convert to Islam and be the wife of the culprit could be double trauma for the victim. It is another form of further victimising a woman,” said Ali.

He appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to take suo moto notice of the gross human rights violations of the poor and the marginalised minorities in the Sindh province at the hands of police and lower judiciary, who are predominantly influenced by the feudal and local elite.

Ali said the Sindh police reportedly support perpetrators instead of victims. The organisation undertakes a project Roshni Helpline that rescues and tracks down
missing children.

He demanded the Sindh police authorities instead of just pleasing feudal lords and political influential elite, they should give protection to the poor and the marginalised communities. staff report

Happy Mahavir Jayanti from Pakistan Hindu Post (PHP)


In JainismMahavir Janma Kalyanak is the most important religious holiday. It celebrates the birth of Mahavira, the last Tirthankara

He was born on the 13th day of the rising moon of Chaitra, in either 599 BC or 615 BC (depending on religious tradition). According to the Digambar school of Jainism, Lord Mahavira was born in the year 615 BC, but the Swetambaras believe that He was born in 599 BC. But both the sects believed that Mahavira was the son of Siddhartha and Trisala. According to the legend, Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishabhdeva, conceived him. The gods, ingeniously, transferred the embryo to the womb of Trisala. According to Swetambara sect the expectant mother was believed to have seen 14 auspicious dreams. And according to Digambara sect it was 16 dreams. The Astrologers interpreted these dreams, stated that the child would be either an emperor or a Teerthankar.
The holiday occurs in late March or early April on the Gregorian calendar.
On Mahavir Jayanthi, Jain temples are decorated with flags. In the morning the idol of Mahavira is given a ceremonial bath called the 'abhishek'. Lord Mahavira is an ideal in Jainism who taught the world the essence of life. He taught all of us the right way of living the life.The day of his birth is celebrated in a massive procession around the cities. The jains make offerings of milk, rice, fruit, incense, lamps and water to the poor people that day. All sections of the community participate in a grand procession. Lectures are held to preach the path of virtue. People meditate and offer prayers. Donations are collected to save the cows from slaughter and to help poor people by providing them food. Pilgrims from all parts of the country visit the ancient Jain Temples at pawapuri, Kundalpur and Parsvanath on this day.
Lord Mahavir was a great teacher who taught mankind the true path of happiness. His teachings on complete nonviolence and the importance of austerity showed the path to achieving salvation and spirituality.

Christian Woman Jailed under Pakistan’s ‘Blasphemy’ Laws

GUJRANWALA, Pakistan, (CDN) — Police in Alipur have arrested a Christian woman on a baseless accusation of “blaspheming” the prophet of Islam and tried to keep rights groups from discovering the detention, a Christian leader said.

Alipur police in Punjab Province denied that they had detained Rubina Bibi when Khalid Gill, Lahore regional coordinator of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and organizer of the Christian Liberation Front, inquired about her detention after a Muslim woman accused her of blasphemy, Gill told Compass.

“The Muslim woman’s name was kept secret by the police and Muslim people, and we were not allowed to see the Christian woman,” Gill said. “The Alipur police said they had not arrested her yet, contrary to the fact that they had arrested and tortured her at Alipur police station.”

A reliable police source told Compass on condition of anonymity that a First Information Report (No. 194/2010) dated March 20 identified Rubina Bibi of Alipur, wife of Amjad Masih, as accused of making a derogatory remark about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The charge comes under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which have gained international notoriety for their misuse by Muslims to settle personal grudges.

The police source said Rubina Bibi had been transferred to Gujranwala Jail on judicial remand. Alipur is a town near Pakistan’s industrial hub of Gujranwala.

Police told Compass that the FIR was now sealed and no further information would be released to any person or news outlet.

Alipur police told Compass that Rubina Bibi was incarcerated at Gujranwala Jail, and they denied further comment. Inspector Asif Nadeem, Station House Officer of Alipur police, declined to speak to Compass in spite of repeated efforts to contact him.

APMA’s Gill said the case registered against Rubina Bibi was without basis, growing out of a quarrel with her Muslim accuser over a minor domestic dispute. Condemning the arrest, Gill said a radical Muslim relative of the accuser, Sabir Munir Qadri, had turned the quarrel into a religious issue in which the Christian could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment with a large fine.

“The Muslim woman’s relative and plaintiff, Sabir Munir Qadri, filed a case against the hapless Christian woman under Section 295-C of the blasphemy laws of the Pakistan Penal Code, using it like a weapon against the Christian woman,” Gill said.

He urged the Pakistani government to immediately rescind the blasphemy laws – 295-A for injuring religious feelings, 295-B for defiling the Quran and 295-C for blaspheming Muhammad – because they have so often been misused by fanatical Muslims against Christians “as a sword of death.”

The case comes on the heels of the March 3 sentencing in Kasur of a Christian couple to 25 years in prison under Section 295-B for defiling the Quran. Ruqqiya Bibi and her husband Munir Masih had been arrested by Mustafabad police in December 2008 for touching Islam’s sacred scripture without ritually washing.

Tahir Gul, a lawyer with the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, told Compass that the matter arose out of a quarrel between Muslim and Christian children and turned into a clash of their parents.

In Karachi, a court on Feb. 25 sentenced another Christian, Qamar David, to 25 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees (US$1,170) after he was convicted without basis for sending blasphemous text messages in May 2006. David was convicted under Section 295-A of the blasphemy statues for “injuring religious feelings of any community,” and also under Section 295-C for derogatory remarks against Muhammad.

His lawyer, Pervaiz Aslam Chaudhry, told Compass that the conviction was without basis as all 16 witnesses at the trial said that not David but the owner of the cell phone through which they received the blasphemous messages was guilty.

Maximum punishment for violation of Section 295-A is life imprisonment, and for Section 295-C the maximum punishment is death, though life imprisonment is also possible. David received the sentence of life in prison, which is 25 years in Pakistan. He had not been granted bail since his arrest in 2006.

Tourists flock to 'Jesus's tomb' in Kashmir , India

Jesus is reputed to be buried in this run-down shrine in the Kashmir capital
A belief that Jesus survived the crucifixion and spent his remaining years in Kashmir has led to a run-down shrine in Srinagar making it firmly onto the must-visit-in India tourist trail.

In the backstreets of downtown Srinagar is an old building known as the Rozabal shrine.
It's in a part of the city where the Indian security forces are on regular patrol, or peering out from behind check-posts made of sandbags.
There are still occasional clashes with militants or stone-throwing children, but the security situation has improved in recent times and the tourists are returning.
When I first searched for Rozabal two years ago, the taxi circled around a minor Muslim tomb in a city of many mosques and mausoleums, the driver asking directions several times before we found it.
The shrine, on a street corner, is a modest stone building with a traditional Kashmiri multi-tiered sloping roof.
A watchman led me in and encouraged me to inspect the smaller wooden chamber within, with its trellis-like, perforated screen.
Through the gaps I could see a gravestone covered with a green cloth.
When I returned to the shrine recently though, it was shut - its gate padlocked because it had attracted too many visitors.
The reason? Well, according to an eclectic combination of New Age Christians, unorthodox Muslims and fans of the Da Vinci Code, the grave contains the mortal remains of a candidate for the most important visitor of all time to India.

South Carolina Hindus Get a Temple Of Their Own , USA

SOUTH CAROLINA, U.S., March 19, 2010: Hindus in the Orangeburg area on Friday begin a significant chapter as they celebrate the opening of the new Hindu Temple and Cultural Center. Different spiritual and social events to mark the occasion will take place Friday-Sunday March 19-21 at the new facility.

Temple trustee Sangeeta Gupta says an influx of new members and a desire to worship in a roomier facility led to the acquisition of the new structure in August. She expects about 500 people will be on hand for this weekend’s opening. “We simply wanted a temple of our own because we did not want to have to drive to Columbia,” Gupta said. “I estimate there are around 300 Hindu families within about a 60-mile radius of Orangeburg and other local communities such as Denmark, Barnwell and Bamberg.”

A View Of Hindu Culture For Kansas Students , USA

NORTH NEWTON, KANSAS, : For Paul Lewis, Bethel College professor of psychology, an integral part of his Social Cognition class is having students directly encounter the Hindu Indian culture. Every other spring since 2002, Lewis has been taking students to celebrate Holi - which honors spring, fertility and new beginnings - with the congregation of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Society in Kansas City and to meet with members of the Vedanta Society, an ecumenical group of devotees who worship Shri Rama Krishna.

“As a graduate student,” Lewis says, “I had experience working on some cross-cultural projects featuring comparison and contrast of North American Caucasians with South Asian Hindu Indians.” From this experience, he became aware “of a fair amount of the scholarly cultural psychology literature pertaining to a comparison of these two cultures.”

Cassidy McFadden, sophomore from Elgin, Ill., explains that one of the goals of the Social Cognition class is “to learn a little bit about how people view themselves and others, and one of the best ways to do that is by analyzing another culture - and our own in the process.” Students began the semester reading about Hindu religion and culture before traveling to Kansas City for a long weekend to experience some of what they had been learning about.

Ramnavami Festival Celebrated Across India

SRINAGAR, INDIA, March 24, 2010: Devout Hindus in different parts of the country offered prayers in the temples on the occasion of Ram Navami, the birth anniversary of Lord Rama, on March 24. At Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama in Uttar Pradesh, a large number of devotees took a holy dip in the River Saryu and visited temples to offer special prayers on the occasion. Also hundreds of devotees visited the famous Kanak Bhawan Temple in Ayodhya.

“It is believed that if a person seeks the blessings of Lord Rama on this day, he attains salvation,” said Dev Morari Bapu, a priest at the Kanak Bhawan Temple. In Srinagar, temples were lit with lamps to mark the occasion. Devotees of all age groups thronged the temples even before the dawn carrying offerings of sweets, flowers and fruits.

“We want to follow the teachings of Lord Rama. We want that there should be peace all around. I pray on this day that violence around the world should end and all the disturbances should come to an end,” said A K Raj, a devotee. In north India, Ramnavami festival also marked the end of the nine days of the Spring Navaratri festival, during which many devotees observe fast to honour the goddess Durga.

Ram Navami falls on the ninth day of the first fortnight of the Hindu month of Chaitra, which usually falls in the month of March or April.

In Fiji, Ramnavami Celebrations

FIJI,: Hindus around the country celebrated Ram Naumi yesterday after nine days of prayer and fasting. General secretary of the Shri Sanatan Dharm Brahman Purohit Maha Sabha, Kamal Sharma said their message to youths during Ram Naumi this year was to follow the teachings of Lord Rama in their life.

“We learn from the Ramayan that he did not discriminate between people of any race of work of life and we believe that people, especially young people should always accept others as their friends. The question of race, religion and work of life should not matter,” he said.

Devotees marked the end of Ram Naumi yesterday with prayer and offerings to the Deities at their homes and at the temples around the country. While some celebrated it at noon, others marked the end in the evening.

Indonesia’s Hindus Celebrate Saraswati Day

JAKARTA, INDONESIA,: Thousands of Hindus crammed into Tirta Empul temple in Tampaksiring, Gianyar, on Sunday for a self-purification ritual in conjunction with Saraswati, the day of praise for the goddess of knowledge. Children and adults came to the temple in droves to conduct banyu pinaruh, a bathing ritual, which is performed to eliminate negative influences from their souls and ask for blessings from Saraswati.

Putu Sudirta came all the way from Denpasar with his family to perform the ritual. “We usually call this rite melukat, or cleansing ourselves of bad things,” said the 35-year-old man. “I came here because this place is special. It has a sanctified water source, which is believed to possess a spiritual power to purify ourselves.”

On Saraswati day, Hindu people celebrate the knowledge bestowed by the Goddess. Over the day they worship books and other symbols of knowledge by performing prayers and making offerings.

[HPI note: The puja honoring Saraswati (and the main Navaratri festival) happens on a different date in most of India.]

Tourism Trumps Devotees in Some Indonesian Temples

JAKARTA, INDONESIA, : Hindus in Yogyakarta have voiced complaints claiming to face difficulties when praying at ancient temples across the province. Indonesian Hindu Dharma Association Yogyakarta branch chairman Ida Bagus Agung said in many cases Hindus were forced to pay to enter such temples and were occasionally prohibited from praying. He also said many of the temples had been altered to serve the tourism industry.

“[The trouble] is not just in Yogyakarta, but also in East Java and Kalimantan,” Agung said, adding that these temples were as important temples of Balinese Hindus.

BJP leader calls for Hindu state again in Nepal


A little-known Hindu organisation's call for reinstatement of a Hindu state in Nepal received an unexpected support here from a visiting top leader of India's Bharatiya Janata Party.

Former BJP president Rajnath Singh, who had arrived in Nepal Sunday to attend the last rites of former Nepali prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who was also the architect of a secular Nepal, said at a press conference in Kathmandu Monday that he supported a Hindu state in the Himalayan republic.

'We used to feel proud that Nepal was the only Hindu kingdom in the world,' Singh said. 'I will be happy when Nepal is a Hindu state again.'

The Indian leader said that there were other theocratic countries in the world - including in the European Union and in South Asia.

'But no one is opposed to them,' Singh said. 'No one is appealing to (the Islamic states of) Pakistan and Bangladesh to become secular. But it was done in Nepal.'

Singh, who met Nepal's Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and President Ram Baran Yadav Monday prior to his departure, said Hinduism was a way of life and tolerant of other religions.

'That is why India is secular,' he said. '(But) Pakistan separated (from India) to become theocratic and look at the state of the country today.'

Asked about the sectarian riots in western India's Gujarat state under a BJP government, the BJP leader said his party condemned violence.

Singh also made a veiled attack against Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas, who waged a 10-year war for a secular state and are now the biggest party in Nepal following the election in 2008.

'Weapons belong to defenders of the state, not the masses,' he said, obliquely referring to the allegation against the Maoists that they have still retained weapons.

'In a healthy democracy, there shouldn't be arms in people's hands.'

The Indian leader said he had urged Nepal's leaders to implement the new constitution on the basis of consensus within the May deadline.

Singh's remarks are likely to fuel a controversy in Nepal at a time when several Hindu organisations are calling for a Hindu state.

A little-known group called the Vishwa Ekata Parishad set two buses and a motorcycle on fire in Kailali district in farwestern Nepal during a general strike called by them in western Nepal Monday.

The group is seeking to reinstate Hinduism as the state religion. An anti-monarchy campaign led to parliament declaring the country secular in 2006.

The new constitution is expected to consolidate the nature of the secular republic.

However, ahead of the new constitution, Hindu groups have begun raising demands for a Hindu state.

Last week, a National Religious Revival Campaign kicked off in Kathmandu, attended by lawmakers and veteran politicians, making the same demand.

There has also been a series of visits by Hindu preachers, including controversial Indian Chandraswamy, who have been attending rituals calling for a Hindu state.

The last of them, a nine-day ritual, was attended by three former prime ministers of Nepal and deposed Hindu king Gyanendra himself.

Nepal's only openly royalist party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Nepal), is demanding a Hindu kingdom.

Kamal Thapa, who was home minister in king Gyanendra's regime and heads the royalist party, has warned of protests against the new constitution unless the government holds a referendum ahead of it.

Thapa says people should be allowed to decide if they want a king and a Hindu state through the referendum.

In the past, the party called a general strike in Kathmandu valley to show its clout and also blockaded major ministries.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Police turn blind eye to rampant kidnapping and rape of Hindu girls in Pakistan's Sindh province

Friday, March 26, 2010
Karachi, (ANI): A 12-year-old Hindu girl, Nandini, is still missing as police officials have failed to recover her even after four months of her being allegedly picked up by an influential individual of the city.  

Officials have no information regarding Nandini's whereabouts, who was kidnapped in December last year, and the accused named Younis has not been arrested despite the fact that there is a first information report (FIR) registered against him.  

It is not an isolated case where Hindu families have been left with little choice than to lament over their fate, with no help in sight from the authorities. 

Several Hindu families, which are at the receiving end of the government's apathy, are awaiting justice for years but there's no one to listen to their plight.  

According to Roshni Research and Development Welfare Organisation (RRDWO), a non-government organisation (NGO), a research has shown in majority of cases involving the minority community, police only provide lip service and do not seriously hunt down the criminals.  

The NGO's President, Muhammad Ali, cited another case of a 17-year-old Hindu girl, who was kidnapped and raped by four men, in January this year. All the four accused were granted pre-arrest bail by a session court.  

"Rape is a non-bail able offence in Pakistan and this is against criminal procedure and the law," The Daily Times quoted Ali, as saying. Ali said the Asian Human Rights Commission has also expressed its serious concern over the case. "Instead of giving justice to the victim's family, the police later arrested the victim's father on a false offence, and have obstructed attempts by the family to file an FIR and obtain a medical report," he added. Ali also disclosed that an 'illegal' tribal court had asked the victim girl to marry her rapist and convert to Islam following which the girl had threatened public self-immolation.  

"Not arresting the rapists and rather forcing a Hindu girl, who is a rape victim, to convert to Islam and be the wife of the culprit could be double trauma for the victim. It is another form of further victimising a woman," he said.  

Ali also appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to take suo moto notice of the gross human rights violations of the poor and the marginalized minorities in the Sindh province at the hands of police and lower judiciary, who are influenced by the feudal and local elite. (ANI)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Frist Hindu from Scheduled/Dalit honored in Pakistan's Day

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Doctors working in social Mr.Sono Khangrani 
KARACHI: Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad bestowed the Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Presidential Pride of Performance Award and Tamgha-e-Imtiaz on 35 renowned personalities at the Governor’s House on Tuesday.

The Presidential Pride of Performance Award was conferred on Safdar Habib, Syeda Saira Sultana, Anees Rabiya Zubairi, Mussarat Misbah, Sobho alias Sobhraj, Muhammad Ibrahim Joyo, Fehmida Riyyaz, Sultan Ahmed, Sahabzada Muhammad Shahid Khan Afridi and Satesh Chandara Aanand. Tamgha-e-Imtiaz was bestowed on Haji Masood Parekh, Shahina Puri, Akbar Khan, Ustad Nazir Khan, Dr Qasim Bhugio, Sabir Zafar, Irshad Qamar, Waqar Azeem, Nadeem Akhtar, Arif Blagamwala, Masood Naqi, Seema Mughal, Maqsood Ismail, Gulzar Ferooz and Dr. Sono Khangrani.

PROFILE: Dr Sono Khangharani : Breaking The Glass Ceiling

Dr Sono Khangharani battled discrimination, hunger, hardship and grinding poverty to achieve his ambition. Then he gave it all up to go back to his roots and help his community

“I grew up in Thar. Except for one image, all my childhood images were made up of recurring droughts, malnutrition, misery, lack of education and health care and sheer hard labour for mere survival. My dejection led me to believe that all our efforts are in vain and whatever we do is merely a drop in the ocean.

“However, the only image that was different came to my rescue. It was of a boy and a girl, undernourished and barefoot, playing joyously in the sand. They were trying to build small houses with pebbles, sand and stones. They failed again and again but they kept trying. I remember the two kids as they were my neighbours. They have grown up but have not given up their struggle,” says Dr Sono Khangharani (known to everyone as Dr Sono).

Like his neighbours, he has also not given up his struggle and is determined to help improve the lives of the rural poor by building teams and social networks that connect them. His conviction comes from his experience of growing up as an impoverished child in Sindh’s Thar Desert which is amongst the poorest regions of Pakistan where over 80 per cent of the people live in chounras (mud/clay huts) without electricity and running water. They obtain water from a well usually shared by the community and the literacy rate is barely 15 per cent here.

Dr Sono believes in the power of social mobilisation; that once the rural poor are organised, important changes can come about in Pakistan. He believes that talent and potential must be harnessed through education, training, and diversification of skills.

Sono Khangharani was six years old in 1960 when he started attending school with his brother in a chounra near Islamkot. As a child, he faced many hardships including discrimination as a Dalit, the lowest caste among Hindus known as the ‘untouchables’. “I had to work extra hard to prove myself because of the caste and class I was coming from,” says Dr Sono. “Poverty is disturbing because it deprives you of choices. You don’t have the freedom to fulfil your dreams” he adds.

Dr Sono passed his Matric exams in the first division, and he knew he wanted to continue his studies. Unfortunately, the drought in 1974 brought difficult times for his family. His parents could not afford to send him to university; they suggested that he apply for government service or work in a factory.

However, he had made up his mind to study and saved money working as a labourer in a cotton factory and in January 1975, he went to the Tandojam Agricultural College near Hyderabad to talk to the principal. Admissions were closed at that time but Dr Sono was determined. He explained his position to the principal who agreed to admit him as a student. His natural charm and ability to convince continue to play an important role in his career as well.

Dr Sono studied agriculture and veterinary sciences and supported himself through scholarships from the university, by giving tuitions to primary students, and by working in a factory. In November 1981, he passed his exams and was soon accepted at a teaching position at Tandojam University.

“I had to work extra hard to prove myself because of the caste and class I was coming from. Poverty is disturbing because it deprives you of choices. You don’t have the freedom to fulfil your dreams.”

Although he taught as a lecturer here for several years, university life did not seem to be his calling. He felt discriminated against as he saw his colleagues getting higher increments while he was passed over despite all his hard work and efforts. He left the University in 1987 to work in the corporate sector but soon realised that he did not belong there either.

In 1993 Dr. Sono landed a job in the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP), in Islamabad, which proved to be the turning point in his career and his life. He became aware of the nature and extent of rural poverty in Pakistan and also discovered his passion to work for the welfare of deprived communities. “I travelled to Kashmir, NWFP, Punjab, Sindh and other places and saw a different kind of world working with the poor. There was a lot of potential to harness and I saw how my contribution could make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged section of the population,” he adds.

During this period Dr Sono met some illustrious men whom he considers his mentors: Shoaib Sultan Khan, Chairperson of NRSP and the late Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan, famous for Karachi’s Orangi Pilot Project. “These were principled men, consistent in their ideals and committed to solving the issues of the poor. They believed in the power of collective action and developing the potential of the poor,” he elaborates.

After meeting these great leaders, any regrets he had about leaving the government job vanished. Inspired by their ideals, he became clear about his own mission. Dr Sono says that he feels their support to this day.

Within three years of working at NRSP, Dr Sono was contacted by Save the Children Fund (UK) which was running Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) at that time. The organisation was going through a process of transformation from a foreign-run entity to a local NGO run by the people of Thar.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity to give back to my own community and set an example and it would be a new beginning of my future career,” says Dr Sono. He was finally selected but offered a lower salary than he was getting at NRSP and the position was in Tharparkar. When he discussed the position with his wife, she agreed to support him but on the condition that the family would stay in Hyderabad.

Dr Sono felt that it would allow him greater autonomy and independence to think creatively; he could transform the organisation and be recognised for it. The most challenging aspect was moving back to Tharparkar, he recalls. “There was caste discrimination, hunger and disasters such as droughts and floods,” he adds.

Among Dr Sono’s major accomplishments in his career was setting up a new legal framework for TRDP. He created systems and capacities to make it function; he also built a strong team and a donor base. Although this was an 18-month position, he was asked to stay on. “The community (of Thar) also wanted me to stay. As a result twelve years later I am still here,” he says cheerfully.

Dr Sono faced a big challenge in 1999, when there was a major drought in the region. There were acute food shortages. People were forced to mortgage land and livestock for foodstuff. Lack of fodder also led to diseased and dying livestock, precious assets of the people in Thar.

When this scribe asked Dr Sono how he ironed out this challenge, he said that his memories of growing up with the poor had a lot to do with it. His family lost over 80 goats during the course of a decade; they died during droughts or were sold at throwaway prices. He also lost his elder brother and two of his aunts to snakebites.

“These memories of my family’s vulnerabilities forced my imagination to work through disasters and mobilise people and resources,” he explains. With the help of his partners, he was able to raise money in a short period of time and expand his services to help people in other villages and different parts of the arid zones.

It is this network of people and friends that Dr Sono values the most. He travels a lot — to Sukkur, Karachi, Islamabad, India, US, UK, Switzerland — to meet with partners and donors, to attend board meetings and seminars on human rights. He is a member of the International Dalit Solidarity Network against caste discrimination and attends UN Human Rights Council sessions every year on food security, environment, and poverty alleviation. And this is what he is doing in his capacity in Thar. He is creating a forum for discussion by connecting people with each other and with other resources so they can develop their potential and improve their lives.

In his current position, Dr Sono has been able to implement his ideas into reality. He cites the growth of institutions in remote parts of the desert as one of his major accomplishments. Social mobilisation is the backbone of his NGO. Villagers are organised into small groups known as Para Development Committees (PDC), a group of 15-20 men, women or children who come together to discuss common issues. They also work toward a pool of collective savings used for internal lending, especially during emergencies. Leaders take part in managerial and technical training.

Villagers learn through teaching and training programmes in various areas. Just ten years ago, it was unheard of for a woman to visit a neighbouring village. Nowadays women in Thar are going to Karachi and Islamabad for national conferences and training sessions.

Some recent initiatives to train people and help diversify their skills include livestock management, development of cooperatives, linking women who are doing embroidery to the market, drip irrigation, and the Urban Micro Credit Programme for women.

As several PDCs start within a village, they begin to form larger organisations that can work at the village level, helping to plan water supply schemes, for instance, and digging wells. They can also approach the government to build roads and high schools. The clustering of community and village organisations has led to the formation of Local Support Organisations (LSOs) that can link to local government structures at the union council.

Dr Sono is encouraging and assisting LSOs to register as citizen community boards that will allow them to participate and benefit from the government plans. In this way, he is contributing his bit in improving the lives of the marginalised communities in one of the most deprived places of the country.

Peace with equality are HOPEs OF PAKISTAN HINDU COUNCIL

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
By Dr Ramesh Kumar Wankwani
Every war is followed by hopes of peace. Aman ki Asha is an effort for peace that provides such a hope, that will help ease tensions and prevent a third war between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. They have fought wars in the past, but this is not an option anymore. The current efforts to maintain harmony between them gives rise to hope that peace will eventually prevail.

The people of Pakistan and India truly appreciate the efforts initiated by the Jang Group of Pakistan and Times of India. We would like to convey this message to the rulers of both countries.

Pakistan Hindu Council keenly desires peace. This subcontinent is a land of sufis, saints and holy men. If efforts are made to promote peace, India�s concept of limited war can be restricted, which is what peace-loving people desire everywhere. The whole purpose is to prevent war and end conflict.

Someone has finally come forward and shown an interest in maintaining peace at a very public platform. We should not let slip this golden opportunity. We should understand that this is a message of peace, which was spread by sufi saints like Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Baghat Kunkwar Ram, Baba Bullay Shah, Sufi Baba Ajmer Sharif and others. Now concrete steps need to be taken to attain the goal of peace at the earliest.

Media is known as the fourth pillar of the state. It can play a key role in generating awareness regarding hope for peace. The media in India and Pakistan have started efforts to promote peace. If these efforts fail, the future of people in both countries will be dark.

It is the need of the hour to understand the desire of people for peace and judge it accordingly. Before the partition of Pakistan and India, Hindus and Muslims lived together and brotherhood prevailed. Despite having separate identities and religions, they have much in common. Both nations lived peacefully together and expelled the British from the sub-continent through collective efforts.

Despite the division of the sub-continent, many things can make this region a region of peace. Pakistan and India are separate countries, but the people trust each other and love peace and brotherhood, and also respect each other�s geographical boundaries. Besides this, there are a large number of people from both sides who respect and follow the teachings of our sufis and saints.

India has a larger population, but its government should know that if the Times of India continues its efforts, peace is bound to prevail.

India has for long been committing a mistake in not maintaining peace in the region. As the bigger country, India will have to face bigger losses in case of war as Pakistan too is a nuclear power. India�s claim that it will fight a small scale or limited war is foolishness as wars only lead to destruction and devastation.

To give a realistic shape to the hope for peace, the first step is to create equality. If equality is established, then there will be no hurdle in the way of maintaining peace.

Despite the passage of 62 years, it seems that many Indians and Pakistanis have not accepted each other�s existence.

The main conflict between Pakistan and India is the Kashmir issue, which should be resolved according to the wishes of the Kashmiri. Besides this, reduction in the arms race, and exchanges in the fields of tourism, culture, trade, sports, education, print and electronic media will help reduce tensions between the two countries. Such exchanges will also provide a suitable environment in maintaining peace. With frequent visits and meetings of intellectuals and authors of India Pakistan these wishes and hopes can materialise into reality.

The Pakistan Hindu Council desires that dialogue on vital issues should begin on the basis of equality. This will not only help in changing the scenario, but it will also have positive effects on this subcontinent.

Once again, heartiest congratulations to the Jang Group of Pakistan and Times of India for initiating efforts for peace in the region.

The writer is Patron, Pakistan Hindu council