Tag Archives: Uttar Pradesh

Journalist Exposes the Claim of the 570 Km Swim Feat by the 12-year-old Shraddha Shukla as False.


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Sharada Shukla, 12-year-old swimmer (Photos: (L) – Hindustan Times; (R) – Bhaskar
Sharada Shukla, 12-year-old swimmer (Photos: (L) – Hindustan Times; (R) – Bhaskar

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Shraddha Shukla from Kanpur’s Cantonment area swam 10 km from Ganga Barrage to Siddhnath ghat at age six and a year later she swam 6 km from Kanpur to Unnao. On August 11, 2013, when she was eight, she covered 16 km downstream in just 80 minutes nipping 10 minutes from her earlier best. The following year, Shraddha swam to Allahabad from Massacre ghat in less than a week.

On Sunday, August 28, 2016, the 12-year-old Shraddha Shukla was ready to set a record by swimming 570 km in the swollen Ganga from Kanpur to Varanasi in 10 days. She plunged into the river Ganga at Massacre Ghat, Kanpur at 11:10 am and scheduled to reach Varanasi on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. According to her father and coach Lalit Shukla, she would set a record by swimming about 70 km a day with breaks after every four to five hours. The total distance covered would equal 13 Olympic marathons.

Lalit Shukla hopes his daughter if selected to take part in the Olympics would win a gold medal for India.

Shraddha Shukla became a star overnight.

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Vinod Kapri, Senior Journalist & Filmmaker (Photo: Bue.rahuljaiswal)
Vinod Kapri, Senior Journalist & Filmmaker (Photo: Bue.rahuljaiswal)

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A Mumbai-based senior Indian journalist and documentary filmmaker, Vinod Kapri, who in 2014 won a National Award for the documentary film “Can’t Take This Shit Anymore” contacted Lalit Shukla.

For two days, Vinod Kapri along with three of his associates travelled on Lalit Shukla’s boat. He noticed that most of the time Shraddha Shukla travelled in the boat instead of swimming and whenever they approached a ghat or when people were around she dropped  into the waters and swam. So, according to Vinod Kapri, the girl swam only when spectators were present.

When Kapri questioned why Shraddha swam only two to three km per day instead of 70 Kms, covering most of the distance on the boat, Lalit got irritated and threatened him. Kapri then hired a motor boat for himself and his team.

While waiting near Vindhychal ghat in Mirzapur, Kapri and his team spotted Lalit Shukla’s boats and started filming. They found the girl sitting in the boat with her father. When the team started filming, Lalit Shukla hurled abuses and issued life threats.

Lalit Shukla repudiated Vinod Kapri’s claim that his daughter swam only when spectators were present. He said that after every 15-20 km they pulled the girl out of the water  to apply a cream on her body and give her something to eat.

The Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (UPSCPCR) ordered a probe into the alleged violation of rights of the 12-year-old swimmer, who is said to have covered a distance of 570 km in 10 days.

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The Elderly Hindi Typist of Lucknow and His Typewriter


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By T.V. Antony Raj

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Ashutosh Tripathi
Ashutosh Tripathi, Journalist.

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Young Ashutosh Tripathi wanted to join the army, but his parents would not allow it. So, in 2011, he opted for journalism. Soon he realized that he was in the worst profession as some people who had taken to journalism as a career were earning as low as ₹ 2000 per month. However, some seniors encouraged him and said that someday he will feel glad that he chose the media, the fourth pillar of democracy, as his vocation.

Saturday, October 10, 2015, proved to be the lucky day for the news hungry Ashutosh. In the morning, while having breakfast at an eatery near the General Post Office (GPO) in Lucknow, he saw police sub-inspector Pradeep Kumar violating traffic rules by riding a motorbike on the bicycle track. He then saw the police officer kick a milk container of a vendor selling tea on the pavement. The budding journalist thought the action of the policeman was newsworthy.

When the sub-inspector started threatening the vendors and others plying their trade on the pavement outside the GPO and ordered them to leave, Ashutosh started clicking his camera for he wanted to expose the  brutality of the Lucknow Police.

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Sub-InspectorPradeep Kumar kicking the typewriter (Photo: Ashutosh Tripathi)
Sub-InspectorPradeep Kumar kicking the typewriter (Photo: Ashutosh Tripathi)

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While everyone left, the 65-year-old Kishan Kumar, a frail typist who has been doing Hindi typing outside the General Post Office for the past 35 years was slow to leave. The irate police officer kicked the old man’s typewriter.

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Sub-InspectorPradeep Kumar smashing the typewriter into the ground (Photo: Ashutosh Tripathi)
Sub-InspectorPradeep Kumar smashing the typewriter into the ground (Photo: Ashutosh Tripathi)

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With tears flowing down his cheeks, the elderly man collected the parts of his typewriter and tried to put them together. The sub-inspector then snatched the typewriter from the poor man who then with folded hands besieged the officer to spare his machine. But the arrogant policeman threw it on the road smashing it.

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Kishan Kumar picking up the parts of the damaged typewriter (Photo - Ashutosh Tripathi)
Kishan Kumar picking up the parts of the damaged typewriter (Photo – Ashutosh Tripathi).

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Sobbing, with tears hiding his sight, the old typist started collecting the pieces of his mangled typewriter.

When the sub-inspector saw Ashutosh taking photos of the incident he objected and ordered him to delete them. Ashutosh was bold and interjected. He asked the police officer how he could do this to an elderly citizen. The sub-inspector told him not to teach him but to do his job.

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Pradeep Kumar, the Police Officer who damaged Kishan Kumar's typewriter (Photo - Ashutosh Tripathi)

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As Ashutosh continued taking photos, the stubborn sub-inspector told Ashutosh that he could show the photos to anyone and even posed for him.

Ashutosh comforted the sobbing elderly typist who told him the machine was completely damaged and it was the source of his income.

Ashutosh Tripathi wrote the story for the newspaper Dainik Bhaskar where he worked. He also shared the story on Facebook hoping someone might take note of the incident and get the typewriter of the old man repaired.

After a while when Ashutosh logged into Facebook he saw his story had gone viral. Ashutosh’s brother tweeted the photos on Twitter which many celebrities retweeted.

Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, took note of this incident and ordered the suspension of the sub-inspector. He offered financial help for Kishan Kumar and gave orders to replace the damaged typewriter.

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Mr. Rajesh Pandey, SSP and Mr. Raj Shekhar, the District Magistrate of Lucknow presenting a new typewriter to Kishan Kumar
Mr. Rajesh Pandey, SSP and Mr. Raj Shekhar, the District Magistrate of Lucknow presenting a new typewriter to Kishan Kumar.

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Mr. Rajesh Pandey, SSP and Mr. Raj Shekhar, the District Magistrate of Lucknow met Kishan in person and tendered an apology for the police officer’s misbehaviour. They also presented him a new typewriter.

On Monday, two days after the incident, Kishan Kumar was threatened over the phone. The caller said that he had done a “bad thing”. After the threat call, the police have provided the necessary security to Kishan Kumar and are probing the threat call.

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The Gulabi Gang – The Fearless Women in Pink


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Sampat Pal Devi and her Gulabi Gang members  (Source: i.facebook.com/pages/Sampat-Pal-Devi)
Sampat Pal Devi and her Gulabi Gang members (Source: facebook.com/pages/Sampat-Pal-Devi)

These women dressed in pink and with laathi (bamboo stick) in their hands are fearless!

Their leader Sampat Pal Devi is a mother of five children and a former government health worker. She has a long list of criminal charges against her: unlawful assembly, rioting, attacking government employees, obstructing officers in the discharge of duty, beating a policeman for abusing her, and so on. Once she even went underground to hide from the law. However, her actions have secured notable victories for the community.

Sampat Pal Devi (Source: facebook.com/pages/Sampat-Pal-Devi
Sampat Pal Devi (Source: facebook.com/pages/Sampat-Pal-Devi

Sampat Pal Devi (born 1960) is a tough woman with a commanding personality. She hails from the Bundelkhand area in the state of Uttar Pradesh – one of the poorest region in India and notorious for its rebels-turned-armed bandits. Sampat is a vigilante and activist fighting for the rights of women in the villages.

She was given in marriage to an ice-cream vendor at the tender age of 12. She bore her first child, a girl, at 15.

In 2006, responding to widespread domestic abuse and other violence against women, Sampat Pal Devi formed the Gulabi Gang (Hindi गुलाबी gulabī, “pink”), a group of Indian women vigilantes. Most Gulabi members dress in pink and carry laathis in their hand.

Despite being born into a traditional family and married off early, Sampat evolved into a charismatic leader who acts as judge and jury for girls and women who are being abused by outlawed patriarchal traditions and the caste system.

Sampat and her gang are constantly on the move fighting causes for the betterment of the community. They crusade against child marriages, dowry, and female illiteracy.

To demand their rights, the rebellious women gang submits petitions and verbally attacks corrupt officials, sneering policemen and complaisant bureaucrats. They visit abusive husbands and beat them up with laathis and warn them to stop abusing their wives in the future.

They usually travel by cart and tractor. At times, they undertake long journeys by bus and train, to fight for justice for women and dalits and other untouchable people.

In 2008, when her village was deprived of electricity because the officials of the department expected to extract bribes and sexual favours from the women, she and her stick-wielding Gulabi Gang stormed the premises of the electricity department, locked the concerned officials in a room until they cried for mercy. An hour after they left the premises, the power was on in their village.

In 2008, the group was reported to have 20,000 members as well as a chapter in Paris, France. Now, the Gulabi Gang has taken root in Banda, Mahoba, Chitrakot, Fatehpur, Farrukhabad, Kanpur, Allahabad, Etawah and Bijnore and has about 300,000 women members.

The Gulabi gang is the subject of the 2010 movie Pink Saris by Kim Longinotto as is the 2012 documentary Gulabi Gang by Nishtha Jain.

Initially, it was reported that the Bollywood film, Gulaab Gang, starring Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla as leads, is based on Sampat Pal’s life, but the director denied this, saying that he recognizes the work done by Sampat, but his movie is not based on her life.

Gulabi Gang's esrtwhile leader Sampat Pal (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)
Gulabi Gang’s esrtwhile leader Sampat Pal (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Now, the all-women Gulabi Gang is heading for a split as there is a tussle in leadership. On Sunday, March 2, 2014, six years after its inception, the group’s founder commander Sampat Pal Devi was dethroned by the Maharashtra based national convener of Gulabi gang Jayprakash Shivhare at a meeting in Banda following allegations of financial irregularities – “taking money for resolving the problems of poor and suffering women,” and “involvement in self promotion” at the cost of the organization’s mission.

The national convener of Gulabi Gang, Jayprakash Shivhare said:

“There is huge resentment in the organization against Pal. She had been playing in the hands of the Congress party… She had stopped holding meetings of the group and used to take decisions autocratically. She contested Assembly elections on
Congress ticket without taking any suggestion from other members of the group… Later, she decided to visit Rae Bareli along with other members and campaign in support of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and against Aam Aadmi Party.”

“She also went to TV reality show Bigg Boss without consulting the working committee of the group. She had gradually become extremely selfish and minting money at the cost of the organization… Removing her from all posts was the only option left with us. Since she has been defying decisions of the group, it was decided that she would no longer be its primary member.”

Suman Singh Chauhan, commander of Mahoba unit has been appointed as interim commander of the group and a seven-member committee has been constituted to run the organization as of now. A meeting of the group has been convened on March 23 to elect a full-time commander.

However, Sampat Pal Devi, asserted her authority saying she was still the leader of the Gulabi Gang.

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ASI Hits Dirt After Following a Seer’s Dream of Fool’s Gold


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Myself . By 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Just 23 days after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began digging to locate the much-hyped 1,000 tonnes of gold buried inside Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh fort in Daundia Khera in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India, ended on Monday, November 11.

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The marked spot at Raja Ram Rao Bux fort where excavation was carried out in Unnao - PTI File photo
The marked spot at Raja Ram Rao Bux fort where excavation was carried out in Unnao – PTI File photo

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The ASI started the excavation to find gold after a local seer claimed that the Raja had appeared in his dream and told him that 1,000 tonnes of gold lay buried under the ruins of the fort.

The Myth and the Dream

Myths and legends abound in the nondescript hamlet of Daundia Khera in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India, about a hypothetical hoard of gold, buried beneath the ruins of a 19th century fort – the treasure hidden by a local landlord Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh, hanged by the British for raising a group of rebels up against them at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

In early October, Sant Shobhan Sarkar, a local seer, active in Unnao district, said that Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh who lived in the 19th century appeared in his dream and pointed to a treasure of 1,000 tonnes of gold buried near the Shiva temple in Daundia Khera.

A sewak of the seer said that his  55-years-old guru hailed from a Tewari Brahmin family and that he is “class 12 pass.” When asked about the deity the seer worships, another sewak retorted: “He’s a living god. Why would he worship others?”

This revelation by the seer sparked an interest and hope among the gullible villagers.

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The Seer and the Union Minister

Dr. Charan Das Mahant, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing.
Dr. Charan Das Mahant, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing.

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On September 22, and October 7, Dr Charan Das Mahant, the lone Congress Member of Parliament representing the Korba Lok Sabha constituency from Chhattisgarh, and Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing, had visited Shobhan Sarkar’s ashram. The seer, apparently concerned about India’s slumping economy and plummeting rupee, told the minister about his dream. He claimed there could be as much as 1,000 tonnes of gold there, and another 2,500 tonnes of gold lying nearby, awaiting excavation, which the government could use to augment its gold reserves. Dr Mahant, convinced by the seer, assured him that appropriate action would be taken with regard to his dream.

On his return to New Delhi, the Union Minister, set the ball rolling. He informed the Prime Minister’s office, the finance minister, the home minister, the mines minister and various agencies. He also sent word to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. With surprising alacrity, the government machinery immediately sprang to action.

In an interview with The Indian Express, Dr. Mahant said: “When I met [Mr. Sarkar], he told me about the reserves. He said the quantity was so huge that if the government can excavate it, it could be handy since there was a crisis with the rupee.”

Political pressure compelled a team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to survey the area.

Counting Chickens

Even before the excavation began, many started counting their chickens. The residents of Daundia Khera, believing that the seer’s prediction will prove true, demanded that 20 percent of the findings should be spent developing educational and health facilities in the area.

A delegation of All India Kshatriya Mahasabha raised a demand for their share in the “booty”. Uma Shankar Singh, the Mahasabha president, who led the delegation to the excavation site declared:

Since the fortress belongs to an erstwhile royal family of Rajputs, the Kshatriya Mahasabha ought to be naturally entitled to a share in the gold recovered.

Naresh Agrawal, the general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and Rajya Sabha MP, wanted the state government’s share in the gold.

The Excavation 

The GSI submitted a report that said that there were strong indications of metal lying under the ground at the site and recommended further investigation by an excavation. A sentence in the report’s conclusion said a site inspection had detected that a “prominent non-magnetic … zone occurs at 5-20 metres depth [and there is] indication of possible gold, silver and/or some alloys.

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Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)
Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)

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The excavation works began on October 18, 2013, amid tight security by a 12-member team from the ASI led by its Deputy Director P. K. Mishra.

An official of the ASI said that it is not the Sadhu’s dream alone that brought them to the site. “We’ve responded to a report by the ministry of culture. It has observations by the Geological Survey of India that there could be some metal bounty under the earth. So the team is in the field,” he said.

The U-turns

The BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi while addressing a crowd in Chennai on Friday, October 18, 2013, ridiculed the Centre for deciding to hunt for 1,000 tonnes gold in Unnao. Modi said:

The whole world is mocking at us (over the hunt). Somebody dreamt and the government has started an excavation … The money hidden by thieves and looters of India in foreign banks is much more than 1,000 tonnes of gold. If you (government) bring back that money, you won’t have to do digging for gold (in Unnao),”

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Narendra Modi addressing the crowds after his arrival at the Chennai Airport. (AS Ganesh | ENS)
Narendra Modi addressing the crowds after his arrival at the Chennai Airport. (AS Ganesh | ENS)

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Followers of the seer castigated Narendra Modi on his remarks criticizing the government’s action of digging based on the seer’s dreams.

On October 21, Narendra Modi today took a U-turn and praised seer Shobhan Sarkar in a tweet:

“Sant Shobhan Sarkar ke prati anek varsho se lakho logo ki shraddha judi hui hai. Main unki tapasya aur tyag ko pranam karta hu (lakhs of people have reposed faith in seer Shobhan Sarkar over last many years. I salute his austerity and renunciation).”

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Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Union Culture Minister
Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Union Culture Minister.

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This was followed by another U-turn made by the government on October 24, when Union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch said the ASI was not digging for gold, but trying to find weapons used by Indians in the 1857 mutiny. She said:

We have a report from GSI saying that there is an alloy in this area. Alloy can be anything. I cannot say whether it is gold, silver or steel,.. There can be guns or idols. We are trying to locate the weapons used by Indians in the mutiny that we don’t have any in our museum or stores. We are trying to find something, which is connected to the mutiny and used by the Indians.”

All that glitters is not even Fool’s Gold

Earlier, when asked about Shobhan Sarkar’s dream, an ASI official said, “We have not come here for gold. We are archaeologists who have a scientific way of working … I cannot say anything about any metal. For us even a broken earthen pot of that time holds equal importance.”

Now that is what the archaeologists have found. Their wish became a reality!

The ASI team found only broken bangles, utensils, some bones and pieces of metal, but not a speck of gold.

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The Myth of the Hoarded Treasure of Daundia Khera


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Gold coins

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In the nondescript hamlet of Daundia Khera in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India, myths and legends abound about a hypothetical hoard of gold, buried beneath the ruins of a 18th century fort – the treasure hidden by a local landlord hanged by the British for raising a group of rebels up against them at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

The fantastic tales about the hoard of gold has passed down from one generation to the next. Villagers said that there had always been speculation of gold buried in the village, and people occasionally found coins near the fort that invariably brought bad luck to the finder.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British, began on May 10, 1857, in the town of Meerut, as a mutiny of Sepoys of the East India Company’s army. The rebellion soon escalated into civil disobedience, more rebellions, and other mutinies in the upper Gangetic plain and central India with major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh,  and the Delhi region.

On June 4, 1857, the troops of Maratha aristocrat Nana Sahib, crushed the British army in Kanpur. The British contingent fled to Unnao, where Raja Rao Ram Singh leading a group of rebels challenged them. The British took refuge in a temple at Buxar. When the British soldiers refused to come out, the rebels burnt them alive on the Raja’s command.

Enraged over the incident, General Sir James Hope Grant GCB, contrived the arrested of Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh.

On December 28, 1857, the British hanged Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh near the banyan tree at the Shiva temple, and his palace situated near the temple was destroyed.

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Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh
Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh

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What happened to his body after his execution is unclear as no record exists to that effect. In 1992, the authorities established a memorial for the king near the place where he was hanged.

Early this month, a local seer, Swami Shobhan Sarkar, who has established several ashrams in the locality, claimed that the 19th-century king Rao Ram Baksh Singh had appeared in his dream and had pointed to a treasure of gold buried near the Shiva temple where the king worshiped the deity.

The seer, apparently concerned about India’s slumping economy and plummeting rupee, said there could be as much as 1,000 tons of gold there, and another 2,500 tons of gold lying nearby, awaiting excavation, which the government could use to augment its gold reserves.

On September 22, and October 7, Dr. Charan Das Mahant, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing, had visited Sarkar’s ashram. Mahant convinced by the seer, assured him that appropriate action would be taken with regard to his dream. At his behest, the government machinery sprang to action with surprising alacrity.

Political pressure compelled a team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to survey the area.

The GSI confirmed that there were strong indications of metal lying in the ground at the site. A sentence in the report’s conclusion said a site inspection had detected that a “prominent non-magnetic … zone occurs at 5-20 metres depth [and there is] indication of possible gold, silver and/or some alloys”. It recommended further investigation by means of an excavation.

A spokesman for the Junior Minister said Mr. Mahant was too busy to respond to queries. Yet in an interview with The Indian Express, Mahant said:

When I met [Mr. Sarkar], he told me about the reserves. He said the quantity was so huge that if the government can excavate it, it could be handy since there was a crisis with the rupee.

After meeting the seer, Mahant had informed the Prime Minister’s office, the finance and home ministers, the mines’ minister and various agencies. He also sent word to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

This revelation by the seer has sparked interest and hope among the gullible villagers, who invariably visit the memorial of the king to pay their respect on the anniversary of his execution. Since almost everyone in the village is sure the seer’s prediction will prove true, they are already demanding that 20 percent of whatever might be found should be spent to develop educational and health facilities in the area.

A delegation of All India Kshatriya Mahasabha raised a demand for their share of the “booty”. Uma Shankar Singh, the Mahasabha president, who led the delegation to the excavation site declared:

Since the fortress belongs to an erstwhile royal family of Rajputs, the Kshatriya Mahasabha ought to be naturally entitled to a share in the gold recovered.

Earlier, Naresh Agrawal, Samajwadi Party general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP,  wanted the state government’s share in the gold.

The locals say the king had two daughters only, and both committed suicide by jumping into the Ganga river after their father’s execution and left no heirs. After their death, the palace remained abandoned and eventually crumbled. Yet, some people posing themselves as descendants of the king arrived at the village, hoping to get a fair share of the treasure.

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Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)
Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)

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The Archaeological Survey of India ASI installed a few CCTV cameras around the 19th century ruined fort in Daundia Khera. The excavation works began on October 18, 2013, amid tight security by a 12-member team from the ASI led by its Deputy Director P. K. Mishra.

When reporters asked Mishra whether the decision to excavate was taken on the basis of the seer’s dream, he said:

… actually, a report by the GSI suggested that there may be gold or silver there. On the basis of findings of the report, we have started the excavation, and results will come soon.

Dr. B.R. Mani, a senior ASI official, insisted that they are not treasure hunters. Their team was interested in excavating the ‘historic‘ site because they have been directed to do so after the GSI conducted a preliminary inquiry and found there was something there.

Spending public money to launch a treasure hunt on the say-so of a seer, by the supposedly secular Congress party-led government, has led many to suspect the sanity of our leaders who are making a mockery of our nation.

The BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi while addressing a crowd in Chennai on Friday, October 18, 2013, ridiculed the Centre for deciding to hunt for 1,000 tons gold in Unnao and said India could stand to gain several thousand crores of rupees if it got back the black money stashed in the Swiss banks. Modi said:

The whole world is mocking at us (over the hunt). Somebody had dreamt and the government has started an excavation…the money hidden by thieves and looters of India in foreign banks in Switzerland is much more than 1,000 tons of gold.

CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury called it strange and said it is not right to dig up some place to find hidden treasure on the basis of someone’s dream. He said:

What is going on is something we have never heard of before.

The Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury commenting on the event said:

“If the seer’s dream is true or not we will get to know soon. The State Government has taken a decision to this effect.”

Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, said that he wants every district of the state to yield a treasure and people to be happy.

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Is the Archaeological Survey of India Digging for Real or Fool’s Gold?


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Every day, Indians buy almost 2.3 tonnes of gold to hoard. However, none of them is keen to deposit their gold, for safe keeping, into the vaults of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Even the Hindu temples sitting on about half as much gold as in Fort Knox are not volunteering to have their holdings audited by the RBI.

The BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi while addressing a crowd in Chennai on Friday, October 18, 2013, ridiculed the Centre for deciding to hunt for 1,000 tonnes gold in Unnao, and said India could stand to gain several thousand crores of rupees if it got back the black money stashed in the Swiss banks. Modi said:

The whole world is mocking at us (over the hunt). Somebody had dreamt and the government has started an excavation…the money hidden by thieves and looters of India in foreign banks in Switzerland is much more than 1,000 tonnes of gold.

Where is this place called Unnao?

Connected by roadway as well as by railway to Kanpur 18 km away, and 60 km away from Lucknow, is the town of Unnao, the headquarters of Unnao district, a part of Central Ganges Plain in Uttar Pradesh, India. The town is listed as a municipality of Kanpur Metropolitan Area.

But the real action is taking place in the nondescript hamlet of Daundia Khera in Unnao district.

On Friday, a team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began excavations at Unnao Fort searching for a hypothetical treasure of gold that could have been hidden by Raja Rao Ram Baksh, a rich landlord and gold trader who owned a jewellery shop in Kanpur in the early 19th Century.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of Sepoys of the East India Company’s army on May 10, 1857, in the town of Meerut. The rebellion soon escalated into other mutinies, civil disobedience and rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India. Major hostilities were confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region. The rebellion is also known as India’s First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Revolt of 1857, the Uprising of 1857, the Sepoy Rebellion and the Sepoy Mutiny.

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Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh
Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh

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British historians describe Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh as a perdurable marauder and outlaw from the Gangetic Plain who joined the rebels only to loot their camps.

On June 4, 1857, a Maratha aristocrat, Nana Sahib’s troops crushed the British army in Kanpur, and the British contingent fled to Unnao, where Raja Rao Ram Singh challenged them. The British hid in a temple of Buxar. When they refused to come out, they were burned alive on the Raja’s command.

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General Sir James Hope Grant GCB, painted in 1853 by his brother Francis Grant.
General Sir James Hope Grant GCB, painted in 1853 by his brother Francis Grant.

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Enraged over the incident, General Sir James Hope Grant GCB, lured Chandi, one of Raja’s followers to his side and arrested Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh.

On December 28, 1857, Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh was hanged to death near the banyan tree at the Shiva temple. His palace, situated near the temple, was destroyed.

Earlier this month, a local seer, Sant Shobhan Sarkar, claimed that the 19th-century king Rao Ram Baksh Singh had appeared in his dream and pointed to a treasure of 1,000 tonnes of gold buried near the Shiva temple where the king worshipped the deity.

A sewak of the seer said that his 55-years-old guru hailed from a Tewari Brahmin family and that he is class 12 pass. For his followers, Sant Shobhan Sarkar is a living god. Asked about the deity he worships, another sewak retorted: “He’s a living god. Why would he worship others?”

The seer hates to be photographed and his followers would simply take way the camera or the cellphone and rough up the person who attempts to photograph him.

The sadhu wrote to the President, the prime-minister, the chief of the ASI, and local politicians about his dream.

The political pressure finally compelled the ASI to survey the area. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) confirmed that there were strong indications of metal at the site. The dig is to begin with 10 to 12 labourers using simple tools.

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Priests perform puja at Raja Rao Ram Bux fort before the excavation starts. - PTI
Priests perform puja at Raja Rao Ram Bux fort before the excavation starts. – PTI

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The ASI began the excavation work on Friday. The Swami Shobhan Sarkar reached the site around 4 am. After performing a short puja, he immediately left for his ashram in Buxar. His disciples continued to chant hymns till 8 am to generate positive vibes.

When asked about the possibility of striking gold, an ASI official said, “I cannot say anything about any metal. For us even a broken earthen pot of that time holds equal importance.

When asked about Shobhan Sarkar’s dream, the ASI official said, “We have not come here for gold. We are archaeologists who have a scientific way of working.”

Another ASI official said that it is not the sadhu’s dream alone that brought them to the site. “We’ve responded to a report by the ministry of culture. It has observations by the Geological Survey of India that there could be some metal bounty under the earth. So the team is in the field,

No one knows how rich Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh was, nor are they sure if he buried his gold in his village.

We will have to wait and see if the ASI would dig out real gold or Fool’s Gold.

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Add this anywhere

Behind the Billowing Smoke


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Jawed Naqvi

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By Jawed Naqvi

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BEFORE he was stopped for questioning at the Boston airport last week, Azam Khan was perceived as a ghetto-embracing politician, an Indian Muslim with a provincial worldview.

He was once quoted as famously wanting to lead a mob to tear down the Taj Mahal because it symbolised a waste of money. He had earlier claimed that the Babri mosque could only be demolished over his dead body. Well? And he runs an educational institution after a Muslim hero who strove to restore the caliphate in Turkey against Kemal Ataturk’s modernising efforts.

After he was checked at the Boston airport, following which he kicked up a right royal fuss, Azam Khan comes across as the gross neighbour who walked into a house in mourning with an eye on the warm biryani.

The minister from Uttar Pradesh mistimed it though. He had gone to the United States to be feted by the Indian diaspora but was quizzed at the airport where security happened to be on a higher alert than normal.

He claimed he was singled out for being a Muslim. It is perfectly possible that the computerised data on the US terror watch flickered when it saw someone close to his description, and why not?

After all, Muslims have been in the thick of these things. Two Muslim migrants had shockingly wreaked havoc in Boston the other day, evidently in pursuit of their religious calling. They attacked a marathon race, making it the third time when people with Muslim names targeted sportspersons at events where the prize was a cornucopia of human fellowship.

How does Azam Khan respond to the fact that people bearing Muslim names killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972? They targeted a friendly Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009.

Who knows what the computer threw up on him, but Azam Khan is known to be so self-absorbed he wouldn’t have noticed that Meera Shankar was handed a pat-down at a US airport when she was India’s ambassador in Washington DC. It’s a country in serious trouble. Former defence minister George Fernandes and movie actor Shahrukh Khan were questioned too.

What seems even more ironical for Azam Khan’s pervasive sense of victimhood is the fact that Narendra Modi has been denied a US visa, ostensibly because of the extremist politics he practises in Gujarat.

The tangled skein of terror and counter-terror of course goes beyond easy references to religious pursuits as the source.

The example of Timothy McVeigh has been cited in the context of the Boston tragedy. McVeigh was a former US soldier with a disturbed childhood. He was decorated with a military medal for his services in the Kuwait-Iraq expedition before he rammed a truck loaded with explosives in Oklahoma into a government building packed with people.

His grouse with the American government seems to have had little to do with his Roman Catholic faith.

McVeigh was executed with a lethal injection, but every year militarist American policies create more and more disturbed war veterans. The Guardian in February detailed a horrific tragedy unfolding in the United States with practically every military outing.

Describing what it said was a suicide epidemic among US war veterans, The Guardian homed in on the heartrending story of William Busbee, “archetype of the US soldier” whose mother feels he was let down by the army he loved so much.

“Libby Busbee is pretty sure that her son William never sat through or read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, even though he behaved as though he had,” wrote The Guardian. “Soon after he got back from his final tour of Afghanistan, he began rubbing his hands over and over and constantly rinsing them under the tap.”

The reference was to Lady Macbeth’s writhing with guilt at the cold-blooded murder of King Duncan by his trusted lieutenant, her husband.

“Mom, it won’t wash off,” the 23-year old William Busbee said. “What are you talking about?” the mother replied. “The blood. It won’t come off.”

The paper records how on March 20 last year, the “soldier’s striving for self-cleanliness came to a sudden end. That night he locked himself in his car and, with his mother and two sisters screaming just a few feet away and with SWAT officers encircling the vehicle, he shot himself in the head.”

Busbee became part of a gruesome statistic. In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone, the report noted. “To put that another way, more of America’s serving soldiers died at their own hands than in pursuit of the enemy.”

But who is the enemy that young men like William Busbee and Timothy McVeigh are routinely deputed to fight? Before the blood of the three victims killed in the Boston blast was dry, President Obama had sanctioned $133 million or thereabout to arm religious extremists fighting the secular albeit undemocratic Assad regime in Syria.

The trouble is that many of the beneficiaries of the American largesse in the Syrian conflict are the same people whose ideological perversion was responsible for the tragedy of the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001.

This cynical American pursuit of make-believe strategic security becomes equally untenable when the Boston bombers turn out to be inspired by anti-Russian religious bigots who are considered to be kosher by Washington as long as they don’t harm Americans.

I can fully understand Azam Khan getting frisked at the Boston airport, but it is difficult to accept the rest of the story behind Boston’s billowing smoke, which masks America’s unending tryst with self-inflicted horrors.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi@gmail.com

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Re-posted from DAWN.com

Monkey Business: Buy When Cheap; Sell When Dear.


Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Monkey Business - 1
Monkey Business – The commodity.

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Last year, in mid July, Homayun, an Afghan merchant and his cousin Hekmat came in a truck to the monkey-infested Courtallam town, the holiday resort in South Tamilnadu, India.

Immediately they went about searching for a place to stay and were lucky to find a large dilapidated warehouse near the five-falls that had served as a granary thirty years back. Pleased with the place, they gave frantic calls on their mobile phones. A week later three large trucks arrived at the warehouse and unloaded a lot of wired cages. The Afghans were now ready to launch their monkey business.

They offered to buy monkeys for rupees 25 each. Their offer spread virally and the poor folk of the town saw it as a god-sent opportunity to make some money. The municipality welcomed the offer by the Afghans to buy monkeys that were a nuisance to the tourists who came to the resort town from all over India.

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Afghan monkey merchant
Afghan monkey merchant

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During the first week of trading, the Afghans bought more than a thousand monkeys of all sizes. The monkeys, sensing danger retreated to the hills and the supply diminished. Homayun doubled his buying price to rupees 50 for each animal. This offer spurred the monkey catchers to venture into the hills.

The Municipal councillors beamed with joy, as there were no free monkeys to trouble the tourists and the live ones were in cages in the warehouse of the Afghans. However, this  disappointed the older tourists as they were unable to show even a single monkey to their wards.

On Monday, the following week, only three monkeys came up for sale and the monkey catchers haggled over the price, and Homayun settled for rupees 250 for each animal. Since he had to go to Chennai for a week on business, and did not have the time to bargain, he promised the monkey catchers that he would from then on, buy the monkeys at rupees 300 each when he returned after a week.

On Tuesday, Homayun’s cousin Hekmat was occupying the seat of the elder Afghan at the warehouse. The cunning fellow told a selected few that he would give them the caged monkeys at rupees 150 each, which they could sell to Homayun for rupees 300 when he returned from Chennai after a week. This offer spread like wildfire and Hekmat sold almost all the monkeys in five days time except a few sick and dying animals.

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Monkey Business
Hitching a ride.

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On Monday, when the people arrived at the warehouse, they saw it locked, and the Afghans were nowhere, and they understood that the Afghan duo had duped them.

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rhesuscrisis
The Rhesus Crisis in India (Photo by Channi Anaqnd, Associated Press)

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In mid September, Paramdeep Singh, a Punjabi merchant and his cousin Pavitar Singh came in a truck to a village, near the monkey-infested city of Varanasi, the holy city of the Hindus, situated on the banks of the river Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, India.

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Uttar Pradesh, India: Minor Rape Victim Put Behind Bars


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No country for children

The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of media reports about detention of a 10-year-old rape victim by the police in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh recently.

No country for children - 2

The apex court has now sent notice to the state government, asking how the police put the rape victim in custody.

The callous response of police came to fore after the girl’s rape as she was put behind the bars by women personnel when she approached them to file a complaint along with her mother. The victim was rescued after several hours only after locals protested over the matter.

No country for children - 3

Two women constables have been suspended while two sub-inspectors, including the station-in-charge have been sent to police lines following the incident, SSP Gulab Singh said.

Re-posted from INDIATODAY.in

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ASP Insults Rape Victim: “Who Will Rape Such an Old Woman?”


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, a person assaulted and knocked unconscious a 35-year-old Dalit woman returning home from the field around 9:30 pm. This incident happened in Karan Chapra village in Deoria’s Bankata area in Uttar Pradesh, India. On regaining her senses, she found herself raped. On reaching her home she informed her husband about it.

The following day, the woman and her husband went to the Bankata police station to lodge a complaint alleging that Santosh Kumar Singh of their village had molested her. The officer in-charge of the police station registered a case of eve-teasing and nothing more.

Keshav Chandra Goswami, ASP, Deoria.
Keshav Chandra Goswami, ASP, Deoria.

Dissatisfied with the Bankata police, the couple approached Keshav Chandra Goswami, Additional Superintendent of Police, Deoria, seeking his intervention.

After she narrated her ordeal to the ASP, he asked the people accompanying her how old she was and the number of children she has. On being informed that she was a mother of four children and that her eldest son was 17 years old, the insensitive officer, caught on camera, humiliated the rape victim by retorting: “Itni purani aurat se kaun balatkar karega (who will rape such an old woman)?”

When media people met the ASP, he said the woman’s husband had lodged a complaint at Bankata police station yesterday alleging that a person named Santosh Kumar Singh had molested her when she was returning home from the field around 9:30 pm on March 20th. The accused is still not arrested. He also said that the complainant had levelled a charge of eve-teasing and then gave a second complaint mentioning rape. The ASP added that medical examination of the woman did not confirm rape.

Women organizations of the district have condemned the police officer and have demanded action against him for his “insensitivity and insulting remarks”.

Meanwhile, A.C. Sharma (IPS) Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, has offered an apology. He has sought an explanation from the ASP and has ensured strict action against him.

In Lucknow, R.K. Vishwakarma, Inspector General (IG) Law & Order apologised on behalf of the ASP. He referred to the statement of the ASP as unfortunate and said that the officer has to submit his explanation within two days. “The DGP also expressed regret over the hurt caused to the woman because of the insulting remarks,” the IG said adding the police have registered the case.

The IG added that the DGP Headquarters will hold a workshop on public relations for officers who have been recently promoted to Additional SP rank. Goswami was a deputy SP, promoted to Additional SP rank last month and posted in Deoria on March 11, 2013.

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