Saturday, January 18, 2020

30 years after exodus and ethnic cleansing ~ the pain of Kashmiri Pandits

Prescript 1:  it was fading light – I met a gentleman who was sitting forlorn in the lawns of Faridabad Staff training college – some Raina, upon talking to him – he said, none can ever understand our plight ! – I had a book library as big as this lawn and one night, we all had to run away fearing our life ! – sorry friend, we did nothing to placate you !
2. in 1990 – a few of us campaigned to collect some money and handed over the same to Relief Fund organised by Indian Express.  The Commie union to which we belonged objected to this  – but a couple of months later, the same leaders came office to office collecting funds for election campaign of CPM.

The beautiful land - Kashmir is associated with Adhi Sankarar.  He  wrote  ‘Saundarya Lahari’, in praise of Shakti, at the top of the hill, known till then as Gopadari Hill.  The Shankaracharya Temple is situated on the top of the Shankaracharya hill, also called Gopadari Hill,  in the Zabarwan Mountain in Srinagar, Kashmir. The temple is on the summit of the same name at a height of 1,000 feet (300 m) above the plain and overlooks the city of Srinagar.  

Kashmir. Temple of Jyeshteswara [Shankaracharya], on the Takht-i-Suliman Hill, near Srinagar. Probable date 220 B.C. 2.  Pic Credit : British Library Online gallery.

Nearly a thousand year ago, our Acaryar Sri Ramanujar on a pilgrimmage visited Srinagar searching for manuscript of Bodhayana-vritti, a commentary  on the Brahmasutra by Bodhyana.  The "boddhAyana vrutti",  was lying somewhere in a royal library of the then king of an obscure Kashmiri state.  The King before granting access wanted proof - Ramanuja not only put forth his exposition of the new VisihtAdvaita but also engaged the royal pundits in debate to show them the inadequacy of their own monism.    His ardent disciple Kuresar was able to memorise it in one glance; the commentary of Udayavar is known as Sri Bashyam ~ Goddess of learning Saraswathi approving Sri Bashyam conferred the title  ‘Bashyakara’ on Sri Ramanujar.  Thus was fulfilled the main desire of Alavandhar – writing of an authoritative and illuminating commentary on Brahma sutra.

From Independence, for decades, we were hearing different story of Kashmir and our perception too was totally different – there was allaying fear that anything done not appeasing the majority religion over there, the valley would burst into flames and life would be paralysed, hence India patronized and pleased them no ends. TV anchors who consider themselves as the nation’s conscience-keepers, its lode-stars, in turn provoked angry reactions from Kashmiris, belying whatever nationalistic motives the channels may have had other than TRP ratings. The strident counter from Kashmiris to scrub out the troubled past from public memory too has a political context. Any  attempt to sanctify the Army would have seemed to Kashmiri activists a conspiracy to whitewash its perceived past misdeeds and to separatists, a serious threat to the popular support to the secessionist movement. Many consequently thought it was vital to deny the Army any credit, rightly or wrongly, for RR operations in Kashmir.  Every Left oriented thinker on TV would speak of absence of plebiscite and ruling against the wishes of people.

STOP.  – the people, WHO ? – and HOW has the Nation done nothing and conveniently ignored one community, most persecuted, subjected to ethnic cleansing, yet has remained calm and resolute – ‘the Kashmiri Pandits’.  Pandits are   Kashmiri Hindus and a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community. They belong to the Pancha (five) Gauda Brahmana groups from the Kashmir Valley. Kashmiri Pandits originally lived in the Kashmir Valley before Muslim influence entered the region and were threatened to convert or leave.  The patina of a bygone era continues to haunt their brutalised psyches, as they remember the infamous date – January 19, 1990.

Several crucial instances of targeted ethnic cleansing were used to create a fear psychosis, the brute majority swelled on to the streets shouting slogans.   That was phase one – create a fear psychosis amongst the majority community. With a silenced majority reduced to mute onlookers, the terror network got to phase two, leading advocate and political activist Tika Lal Taploo was first threatened and then gunned down.  Just as Justice Neel Kanth Ganjoo – the man who had delivered the verdict against Maqbool Bhatt – was shot dead. Director General Doordarshan Lassa Kaul was the next victim followed by leading Sanskrit and Persian scholar Sarvanan Kaul Premi.  The Nation of intellectuals and media did not react even  when a nurse Sarla Bhat in the Sher-e-Kashmir Medical Institute in Sohra was abducted, gang-raped and then her mutilated body was thrown into the Habakadal thoroughfare.

Pandits were integral part of the valley.  They celebrated grandly ‘Herath’ festival of Shivratri, a great occasion for families to congregate and worship.  Sadly, now Kashmiri Hindus are a community in exile, and the golden days of Kashmir do not exist in the lives of Kashmiri Hindus anymore.  For centuries they had been integral part and this place had the hub of   many Vedic traditions including Shaivism and Shaktism.  In the Kashmir valley,  there are many places that are of cultural and dharmic importance to Hindus. Over years, by radicalization and media, most Indians are not even aware of these.  Because of the demographics of the religions in Kashmir, people have been brainwashed to  think the name “Kashmir” to be of Islamic origin.

The Kashmir valley evolved from the lake of Satisar (the lake of mother Sati, wife of Lord Shiva). The valley of Kashmir came into existence on the prayers of Kashyapa Muni who was the grandson of Lord Brahma.  Sage Kashyap was one of the seven primal sages Saptarishis, mentioned in Vedas. He was  the author of a systematic work: Kashyap Samhita.  The book consists of 7826 verses, and is divided into eight parts. This book is the earliest and most authentic source of information regarding Kashmir.

During the 15th century, the Islamic invader Sikandar Butshikan, decided to destroy this magnificent places of worship and it took a year to damage and destroy this architectural jewel of India. He went about destroying temples and more importantly all granthas razing down bakthi libraries.  .. .. centuries alter towards the end of 1989, the groups finding themselves to be as harmful and mighty, thanks to arms and ammunitions that kept flowing from Pakistan started murders in cold blood, making blood run on the streets of the valley, the blood of Kashmiri pandits. Pandits in the adjoining Sebdan fled in fear to Jammu at dead of night. Even when the Pandits were massacred in hordes at Sangrampora, Wandhama and Nandimarg, very few stood or stayed back – there were internecine clashes between Islamic groups too.   While the Shias of Bemina trooped into Dooru, the Sunnis of Galwanpora took revenge from the Shias of Sebdan.

The ethnic cleansing that had been brewing reached its peak around Sept 1989, leaving only a few thousand of them behind in the Valley and about seven and a half lakh Kashmiri Pandits were left to live the life of refugees in their own country.  The act of losing something can ensure that you elicit great wisdom. For the hapless Pandit, this wisdom translates into pain.  For how do you think it feels if you are displaced in your own country, ignored by different political parties and in many ways expunged from national discourse?  The departure from Kashmir and lack of rehabilitation constitutes one of the greatest human tragedies since Partition. The Pandits today are a lost community, and perhaps at one level, a lost generation. 30 tearful years later, most of them are still struggling to come to terms with their displacement, trying to subsist in alien conditions.

It is worth asking, then, whether the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will ensure the safe return of the more than 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits to the idyllic homes they left behind in the 1990s, on their "own terms". So to all sons of India,  5th Aug 2019 will remain a gold lettered day in the annals of Indian Nation.  Everything else was dwarfed by a simple news of strong Govt will – “All the provisions of the Constitution shall apply in relation to the state of Jammu and Kashmir."  For the purpose, a clause 4 has been added to Article 367 which will introduced four changes.

Article 370 of the Indian constitution is an article that gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The article was drafted in Part XXI of the Constitution: Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.  This article along with Article 35(A) defined that the J&K state's residents lived under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to resident of other Indian states. As a result of this provision, Indian citizens from other states were not allowed to  purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.  .. .. all that changed  with new Presidential Order   revoking the 1954 Order, and making all the provisions of the Indian Constitution applicable to the State.

Not only Imran Khan but even Shahid Afridi were rattled and were voicing insanely .. Our neighbouring country has been trading propaganda war on Kashmir ~ a few years earlier in  UN Conference, then Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly session, said Pakistan wants peace with India but maintained it is "not possible without resolving the Kashmir issue".  British and later Pakistan have burnt mid-night oil to make false propaganda and keep Kashmir burning, the valley restless and people fight against India.  All that is felled now with the master stroke of the day that came after 72 years annulling the special provisions which were meant to be temporary.

~ and hopefully another day would dawn for those hapless Kashmiri Pandits to get back to their own place, and start their life from what they left ~ though decades have certainly changed their life and put them under duress. Hope is the only virtue

~with deep regrets and hoping for a new dawn
S. Sampathkumar

Friday, January 17, 2020

Rahul's day out ! ~ Bapu Nadkarni is no more - India wins at Rajkot

After MSK Prasad another Wicketkeeper from Andhra came close to representing India.  India  called up Andhra wicketkeeper-batsman Kona Srikar Bharat as cover for the injured Rishabh Pant, just before the second ODI in Rajkot today.  KL Rahul kept wickets, did well too behind the stumps with a classy stumping of Aaron Finch.  He scored so well earlier.    Bharat  joined the squad and was training with the team ahead of the toss.

The whole of yesterday was spent in social media on what is happening to MS Dhoni – ‘is he out ?’  as BCCI dropped him from Central list – this removal - from earning INR 5 crore a year to nothing - led to fresh speculation around Dhoni's playing future.  As if to tease them a little more, he trained with the Jharkhand Ranji Trophy team the same day in Ranchi. Expectedly, it was news that Dhoni was formally denied a retainer with the BCCI, but it really doesn't change where Dhoni stands vis-à-vis Indian cricket.

For those following Indian Cricket for ages, sad news that Bapu Nadkarni, the former India allrounder known for his extreme economy with the ball, has died aged 86. Nadkarni, who made his India debut in  1955, played 41 Test matches, scoring 1414 runs and taking 88 wickets at 29.07. The statistic that defined him, though, was his economy rate of 1.67, the second-best in history among all bowlers with 50 or more Test wickets. Nadkarni took four Test-match five-fors with his left-arm spin, including a match-winning 6 for 43 in Wellington, during India's historic tour of New Zealand in 1967-68, when they won their first-ever overseas series. His most famous performance, however, included no wickets. At the Corporation Stadium in Chennai  in Jan 1964, Nadkarni finished with figures of 32-27-5-0 in England's first innings, bowling 21 successive maidens (and 21.5 scoreless overs in a row) along the way. It remains the most economical spell of 60 or more balls in Test cricket.

Away, South Africa's frustrations on the second afternoon at Port Elizabeth were exacerbated by a bizarre incident towards the end of England's first innings, when Joe Root was permitted to withdraw his team's declaration after an umpiring error. 

The incident occurred in the 149th  over of England's innings, after the apparent dismissal of Mark Wood who was caught at mid-on off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada. Root waved his batsmen in with the score of 467 for 9, only to change his decision when Rabada's delivery was shown by the TV umpire to have been a no-ball. England were handed the extra run as the players returned to the middle, and went on to add a further 31 runs in 20 deliveries, before Wood was this time legally dismissed for 42, leaving Ollie Pope unbeaten on 135. According to Law 15.3, pertaining to declaration and forfeitures, a captain's decision "cannot be changed" once he has notified the opposing captain and the umpires.

Proteas paceman Kagiso Rabada has been suspended for one Test match following his celebration when he dismissed England captain Joe Root on day one of the third Test in Port Elizabeth.  Rabada was found guilty of breaching the ICC's Code of Conduct for "using language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batter upon his or her dismissal during an international match". He was fined 15 per cent of his match fee and received one demerit point, taking his tally to four demerit points in the past 24 months, which is enough to see the right-armer miss one Test match. He will now miss the fourth Test in Johannesburg. Rabada bowled Root for 27 on day one at St George's Park with a delivery that kept low and cannoned into off stump. He was then mobbed by his teammates as he screamed in celebration right next to Root as the England captain began his walk off the ground. It's the second time the 24-year-old has been suspended for a Test match for disciplinary reasons. He missed the Trent Bridge Test on South Africa's 2017 Test tour of England having been penalised for incidents against Sri Lanka in February 2017 and the preceding Test at Lord's.

Back home, India drew blood and bounced back at Rajkot.  Steve Smith's highest ODI score in three years couldn't save Australia from their first loss of the summer, as India sealed a 36-run victory.  After Adam Zampa took three wickets and India scored an imposing 6-340, Smith scored 98 and Marnus Labuschagne hit 46 as Australia were bowled out in the last over for 304.  For the second series in a row, India stayed alive having fallen 1-0 behind and lost the toss in the second.  India began the series looking to find space to squeeze KL Rahul in the top order. Instead, batting at No. 5 with that experiment lasting only one match, Rahul responded with a 52-ball 80 to take India to 340 after they threatened to end up with little over 300 despite fifties from Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli.

India lost wickets in two braces, which reduced them to 198 for 3 and 280 for 5, but Rahul played a part in pulling India out of strife on both occasions. If it was Adam Zampa's analysis of 3 for 50 kept India in check, India's spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav rocked Australia in the middle overs with two big wickets each. Jadeja kept India in the contest with tight overs and wickets of Aaron Finch and Marnus Labuschagne, and Yadav ended the chase with the strikes of Steven Smith and Alex Carey in the same over.  Smith missed out on a hundred by two runs. He wasn't the only man to fall in the 90s. Like the openers did in the must-win match against West Indies, it was Dhawan who made India's intent clear with a 90-ball 96.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17th Jan 2020.

Commie horror ~ the man who disappeared 75 years ago !!

This man born in Apr 1908, after schooling,  enrolled in a technical school, from which he was expelled in 1924 for forging his report card. He later graduated, but did not take the Abitur exams that would have enabled him to go to college or university. Instead, he took courses in Brno in several trades, including chauffeuring and machinery, and worked for his father for three years. A fan of motorcycles since his youth, he bought a 250-cc Moto Guzzi racing motorcycle and competed recreationally in mountain races for the next few years. He was to join Czech army, where he rose to the rank of lance corporal, returned to Moravian Electrotechnic, which went bankrupt shortly afterwards. His father's farm machinery business closed around the same time, leaving him  unemployed ~ the story of a failed man one may think – yet the man, Oskar Schindler – is a hero, whose life was imbibed as an inspirational movie, by a person no less than Steven Spielberg.  Schindler's List,  a 1993 American epic historical drama film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Steven Zaillian was  based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally. The film follows Oskar Schindler, a Sudeten German businessman, who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II.

This is no post on Oskar Schindler, but on a person who disappeared on this day 75 years ago ! ~ a man who saved the lives of many jews.   The disappearance of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, presaging the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most brutal extermination camp of the 20th century.  Decades later,  the international drumbeat of evil and indifference can still feel overwhelming, with the international community too often a bystander to atrocity and injustice.

                            Raoul Wallenberg was born in Aug 1912. In 1944, he saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, only to be arrested and shot by the Soviets.  The son of a renowned Swedish family of entrepreneurs and diplomats, he was supposed to become a banker, but found he had neither the inclination nor the talent for the work. Instead he went to the US to study architecture, dropped out, and returned to Sweden during World War II to set up a business importing food - owing his success partly to his experienced Hungarian business partner Kalman Lauer.  As an attaché to the Swedish embassy, Wallenberg enjoyed diplomatic immunity, and he knew how to use it. He bought up buildings in which those he saved could find refuge under the Swedish flag. He bribed officials, offered huge financial deals and threatened political consequences should they fail to help him. Then, the young Swede came up with the idea of issuing "protective passports" that identified the bearers as Swedish citizens and therefore citizens of a neutral state. He managed to save several thousand Jews from the SS and Gestapo.

The Nuremberg Laws  were antisemitic and racist laws in Nazi Germany, enacted by the Reichstag in  1935, at a special meeting convened during the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). The two laws were the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, which forbade marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans and the employment of German females under 45 in Jewish households, and the Reich Citizenship Law, which declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens. The remainder were classed as state subjects without any citizenship rights.

SMERSH was an umbrella organization for three independent counter-intelligence agencies in the Red Army formed officially announced in Apr  1943. The name SMERSH was coined by Joseph Stalin. The main reason for its creation was to subvert the attempts by German forces to infiltrate the Red Army on the Eastern Front.

During World War II, the Kingdom of Hungary was a member of the Axis powers. In the 1930s, the Kingdom of Hungary relied on increased trade with Italy and  Germany to pull itself out of the Great Depression. Hungarian politics and foreign policy had become more stridently nationalistic by 1938, and Hungary adopted an irredentist policy similar to Germany's, attempting to incorporate ethnic Hungarian areas in neighboring countries into Hungary. Hungarian forces participated in the invasion of Yugoslavia and the invasion of the Soviet Union. Their participation was noted by German observers for its particular cruelty, with occupied peoples subjected to arbitrary violence, referred as  "murder tourism." Beginning in 1938, the Kingdom of Hungary, under the regency of Miklós Horthy, passed a series of anti-Jewish measures modeled on the so-called Nuremberg Race Laws. In April and May 1944 the Nazi regime and its accomplices began the mass deportation of Hungary's Jews to extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg (1912 – 1945) was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat, and humanitarian. He is remembered for saving tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from German Nazis and Hungarian Fascists during the later stages of World War II. While serving as Sweden's special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944, Wallenberg issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory.

On 17 January 1945, during the Siege of Budapest by the Red Army, Wallenberg was detained by SMERSH on suspicion of espionage and subsequently disappeared. He was later reported to have died on 17 July 1947 while imprisoned by the KGB secret police in the Lubyanka, the KGB headquarters and affiliated prison in Moscow. The motives behind Wallenberg's arrest and imprisonment by the Soviet government, along with questions surrounding the circumstances of his death and his ties to US intelligence, remain mysterious and are the subject of continued speculation.  Later he was conferred many honours – in   1981, US Congressman Tom Lantos, one of those saved by Wallenberg, sponsored a bill making Wallenberg an honorary citizen of the United States, the second person ever to receive this honour. Wallenberg is also an honorary citizen of Canada, Hungary, Australia, and Israel.

A couple of years ago, a Russian court began hearing a lawsuit from descendants of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg against the FSB security service to try to get more details on his death in a Soviet jail.  Wallenberg was jailed in the notorious headquarters of the secret police in Moscow, where he died. Wallenberg's niece Marie Dupuy in July launched a legal case against the FSB - the successor of the Soviet-era KGB - to force it to drop its refusal to release the full archive on the diplomat. The USSR in 1957 made public a document saying Wallenberg died of heart failure in the Lubyanka prison in July 1947. In 2000, the head of a Russian investigative commission said Wallenberg had been shot and killed by the secret police, but gave no specific details. Sweden officially declared Wallenberg dead in 2016. An FSB representative asked the court to reject the latest demands in part because it said the archives include details about the "personal life" of other Lubyanka inmates.

The documents from 1947 can only be made available in 2022 after an official 75-year waiting period to declassify the documents has passed, the FSB said. "You can wait for these deadlines," he told the family. Whether truth and complete information would get revealed by 2022 too is a mystery.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17th Jan 2020.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

பொங்கலோ பொங்கல் ~ மாட்டு பொங்கல் ~ thanking cattle for the harvest 2020

பொங்கலோ பொங்கல் ~ மாட்டு பொங்கல் ~ thanking cattle for the harvest 2020

During my school days, on this day, I would plead with my mother, take permission to sit on the doorstep of our TP Koil Street house watching those lovely  cows of Triplicane and wondering the affection and warmth showered on them by the people.   

Today, 16th Jan 2020  ~ is a day of special significance. After Bhogi and Makara Sankranthi [Pongal], today is dedicated to the cattle popularly known as ‘Mattu Pongal’.  A day celebrating the cattle, particularly cows and bulls that play a vital role by working hard to help the farmers to raise crops on their fields.  The festival is an occasion when the fresh harvests from the fields are shared in the form of food and sweets not only with the community but also with animals and birds.

Thousands of miles away lies – Iceland, a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic. Dec is coldest month in Chennai and some thoughts on Iceland’s winter where the cold season starts at the end of October, following the old Norse calendar. This calendar only consists of two seasons, winter and summer. There are 26 weeks of winter in Iceland, and 26 weeks of summer.  The first day of summer is a national holiday – who would care that it’s below 10 °C and snowing?  Iceland too has cows ! ~ how would the cattle survive such freezing and long winter ?  Farmers keep the cows inside a cowshed during winter and feed them with hay and feedstuff.  The cows can come out and walk on fields only in the Spring.  It is all automated milking system as farmers use robotic milking, which means that the cows live mostly free during the summer. They can decide when they want to be outside or inside and also when they want to milk them self.

India is the famed land of Ramayana & Mahabaratha.  Great preceptors Shankara, Ramanujacharya, Madwacharya,  Gautama Buddha & Mahaveera  taught peace and patience –Western World, would try depicting  it is a land of snake-charmers, a place where one would encounter cruelty and people are barbaric.  There is no matador spiking the bull or 'Toro Jubilo' where bull is caked in dry mud having fireworks attached to its horns – what right they have in trying to depict us having our bulls and cows, which are worshipped here.  Sadly, there has been developing  a big Urban rural disconnect – the modern day youngsters see rice only in boiled form on their plate, perhaps not knowing how it is cultivated and how the animals have been  so intertwined with people.  Triplicane, the famed land of Sri Parthasarathi is different – you see so many cows on the road and today is special to them.

At Thiruvallikkeni as in other divyadesams, Adhyayana uthsavam concluded today with ‘Iyarpa sarrumurai’, after 10 day Irapathu.  On day 8 of Irapathu – it is ‘Rajamannar thirukolam’  .. it is but natural – Krishna was the King of cowherds and Sri Parthasarathi  in His natural self…as  Rajamannar, blessed  His bakthas.  The whip and the crowning glory were of unparalleled beauty – one could also notice the small calf at His lovely feet and the beautiful cow behind Him.

Cow shout ‘maa’ (moo in English) but actually Cows make  several different sounds including mooing, bellowing, snorting and grunting, and they use these noises for different things.  It’s hard for humans to decipher these cow calls, but a new study shows that our bovine buddies communicate using unique voices, which remain consistent across a range of emotional circumstances. Previous research has shown that mothers and calves show individuality in their vocalizations, helping moms recognize babies’ calls, and vice versa. But Alexandra Green, a PhD student at the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, wondered whether cows also display unique voices in other aspects of their lives. So she headed to a free-range farm on the university’s campus, equipped with headphones and a shotgun mic.

Green spent five months hanging out with a herd of Holstein-Friesian heifers, capturing their moos and lows. In total, Green and her colleagues recorded 333 high-frequency vocalizations from 13 heifers, none of which had been pregnant. The calls were collected during a number of different situations, like when the cows were in heat and when they were anticipating a tasty meal, which the researchers identified as “positive” contexts. Calls were also collected when the animals were denied food, when they were physically isolated from their fellow herd members, and when they were both physically and visually isolated from the rest of the herd, which the researchers identified as “negative” contexts. Using acoustic analyses programs, the researchers determined that the cows maintained individual vocal cues, whether they were communicating arousal, excitement or distress. It is “highly likely,” the study authors write, that cows are able to recognize other members of their herd through these calls.

Back home, the indignant, nonchalant, uncaring Kerala Govt under Pinarayi Vijayan showed their irreverence with Kerala Tourism posting a tweet in social media about   a beef dish eaten in Kerala. The beef dish tweeted by the handle sparked a row soon when the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)  took a dig at Kerala Tourism questioning if the tweet was meant for promoting tourism or promoting beef.  Isn't it hurting sentiments of crores of cow worshippers? Is this tweet generated from the pious land of Shankaracharya?"

Here are some photos of the cows of Thiruvallikkeni  decorated and paraded on roads, with people offering them sweets and their owners some money.  It is sharing of happiness everywhere.

பொங்கலோ பொங்கல் ~ மாட்டு பொங்கல் - நம் கால்நடைகளை பேணுவோம்.
With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th Jan 2020.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

180 sheep gets saved from sinking ship and lives on !

There are ships which carry general cargo, bulk cargo, liquid cargo, cars and there are so many varieties of ships, making marine more and more enchanting.  There is not so frequently heard or seen (in our part of the world) – the livestock carriers – which as the name suggests are large ships used exclusively for transportation of animals – mostly sheep, cattle and goats.  These would be purpose built new ships or vessels converted from container ships.  Imagine tens of thousands of sheeps in a single place -  the transportation across continents for days together would present with multiple problems of restricting their movement, providing them water, fodder and ensuring that they have enough air and do not suffer asphyxiation.

Animals most often are transported in inhumane conditions especially when they are transported in large numbers and when meant for consumption.  The carriage is often unhealthy, unethical and barbaric.  You could see many trucks transporting chicken – huddled together in very small cages where they cannot move or even breathe. In retail often they are tied in cycles, mopeds and other two wheelers hanging upside down.  Perhaps they undergo severe stress and die much before they are put down for consumption. .. .. .. and there have been accidents to carriers which had resulted in death or severe injuries to the live cargo.  They could undergo severe trouble even when a breakdown occurs was brought out in one of my  about the  vessel  ‘Al Messilah”  with carriage of 67000 sheeps from Australia.  A reference to Australia automatically leads to the bushfires and the loss of life. It is reported that upto  100,000 sheep were killed in bushfires on Kangaroo Island and at least 25,000 more livestock perished in fires on mainland Australia, farming groups have said. It is more shocking to read that Kangaroo Island farmers ordered thousands of rounds of ammunition to shoot animals that were critically injured in the catastrophic bushfire that has burned through half of the island’s landmass, devastating a significant koala population and thousands of other wildlife and killing up to one-sixth of the sheep population.

This is no post on the killing ! ~ but sheep surviving and cheating death twice !  - 180 sheep saved from drowning on capsized cargo ship are spared from slaughter as they arrive at their new home in Romania.   In Nov 2019, ship ‘Queen Hind’ capsized  shortly after leaving the Black Sea port of Midia with 14,600 sheep on board.  Some reports stated that many animals had fallen into water when the ship listed and died. The crew of 20 Syrians and one Lebanese were rescued after the ship capsized a short way into its journey to Saudi Arabia.  Though not significant in terms of numbers, Charity workers rescued 254 of the sheep, but dozens later died of illness – the survivors were  temporarily housed in former horse farm near Bucharest.

MailOnline reports that Animal rescuers saved 254 sheep from the ship after it capsized off Romania with 14,600 sheep on board, however dozens later died of illness and exhaustion, leaving just 180 left. Workers from animal charity Four Paws boarded the sinking ship in October to find the animals were kept in grim conditions. The animals however were travelling their ‘funeral voyage’ being transported from Romania to Saudi Arabia for slaughter.  Four Paws and its Romanian partner organisation Arca gained custody of the 180 sheep after refusing to send them to the slaughter house. The surviving animals are now living in a former horse farm north of Bucharest.  Thousands of the sheep were not lucky and  died in the incident  with  footage showing  the surviving sheep clambering over mounds of lifeless bodies.  Some had fallen overboard, some presumably drowned in pools of water. The case has drawn fresh attention to the controversial sea transport of livestock.  The country's main livestock breeders and exporters' association Acebop called for an urgent investigation in the wake of the incident, saying it was 'shocked by the disaster'.  Acebop has previously called for legal changes that would oblige transporters to improve conditions aboard livestock carriers.
Romania joined the EU in 2007 and is the bloc's third-largest sheep breeder and a top exporter, primarily to Middle Eastern markets.   Activists have labelled the livestock transport vessels - about 100 of which leave Midia every year - 'death ships', saying sheep risk being cooked alive on board during the hot summer months. After nearly two months in limbo, the survivors of a cargo ship disaster in the Black Sea — 180 sheep out of more than 14,000   have been spared from being butchered.  The animal welfare organization made a bold statement stating “We didn’t save them to be eaten by somebody,”  - Though they may be referred to as sheep, they are technically rams because they are all males. (Females stay behind to reproduce,   typically only males are shipped away to become meat.)

The rams were living on the farm of the exporter.  Because the exporter received insurance money for his losses, he was willing to turn the rams over to animal welfare organizations, it was stated, yet the survivors needed a home.  A charitable person agreed to host the animals – though he was interested in horses, he was willing to help but was concerned on how long these sheep will remain in his farm.  Given that most seem to be about a year old, that could mean tending to them for nine to 10 more years. There are other problems too – two rams together kept, would fight and kill each other and problems could be aplenty with 180 of them.
Life often is cruel and mankind presents more cruelty to other animals.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

food from the heaven ~ ravaging Australian bushfire

Gippsland is a rural region of Victoria, Australia, located in the south-eastern part of that state. It covers an area of 41,556 square kilometres (16,045 sq mi).  Its eastern part is one of the regions majorly affected by fire. The 2019–20 Australian bushfire, is a series of bushfires, that are currently raging destroying acres of trees and putting flora and fauna to great difficulty.  By some estimates, the fire has destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including over 2,204 homes) and killed at least 27 people.  An estimated one billion animals have also been killed and some endangered species may be driven to extinction. In Dec 2019,  the New South Wales Government declared a state of emergency after record-breaking temperatures and prolonged drought exacerbated the bushfires.

In Thirumala theatre, Main road, Kakinada  – it was day 175 of Bobbili Raja - fans were singing along merrily and dancing to the hit no. :  బలపం పట్టి భామ బళ్లో - అఆఇఈ నేర్చుకుంటా  (balapam patti baama ballo a aa e ee nerchukunta - pantam patti prema vollo a aa o oo padukunta)

Some of the scenes were from that famous hit film ‘Gods must be Crazy’.  Xi and his  tribe of  bushmen are living happily in the Kalahari Desert, far away from Western civilization. One day, a glass Coca-Cola bottle is carelessly thrown out of an airplane by a pilot and falls to Earth unbroken. Initially, Xi's people assume this strange artifact is a "present" from the Gods from heaven and find many uses for it. Unlike other bounties, however, there is only one glass bottle, which causes unforeseen conflict within the tribe. Consequently, Xi confers with elders and agrees to make a pilgrimage to the edge of the world and dispose of the supposedly cursed thing.

The telegu film ‘Bobbili Raja’ starring Venkatesh & Divya Bharti was a sensational musical hit too with the music of Illayaraja.  Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 South African comedy film written and directed by Jamie Uys.  Set in Botswana, it follows the story of Xi, a San of the Kalahari Desert whose tribe has no knowledge of the world beyond.  This post too is about the help from above ! – choppers dropping  thousands of kilograms of sweet potatoes and carrots for animals that are starving to death because of the bushfire crisis - Operation 'Rock Wallaby',  a food-drop initiative by the NSW government.

Mainline medias report that the New South Wales government has started doing food-drops, trickling thousands of kilograms of carrots and sweet potato from above to feed the state's colonies of brush-trailed rock wallabies.  The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service recently commenced 'Operation Rock Wallaby' to combat the at-risk nature of the state's marsupial population. The parks service has spent the past week completing the food drops for rock wallaby colonies in the Capertree and Wolgan valleys, Yengo National Park, the Kangaroo Valley, and around Jenolan, Oxley Wild Rivers and Curracubundi national parks. In total they have dropped more than 2,200kg of fresh vegetables for the critters. New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean said while the aninmals have managed to flee the fires they're left without a source of food.  The Environ minister further added that rock wallabies typically survive the fire itself, but are then left stranded with limited natural food as the fire takes out the vegetation around their rocky habitat.  

The World Wildlife Fund has estimated about 1.25 billion animals have died either directly or indirectly from the bushfires across Australia.  'This heart-breaking loss includes thousands of precious koalas on the mid-north coast of NSW, along with other iconic species such as kangaroos, wallabies, gliders, potoroos, cockatoos and honeyeaters,' WWF-Australia CEO said in a statement.  The rock wallaby - the main species for the state's food drop initiative - was already deemed at-risk before the bushfires because of habitat destruction. Meanwhile, charity Animals Australia has been using aircraft to transport food supplies for the injured and burnt wildlife in regional Victoria.

More than 800,000 hectares of land has been burnt in East Gippsland since fires gripped the region and stranded thousands of tourists and residents before New Year's Eve. Charity group has been relying on donations to lease small planes and then filling them with bags of grain and pellets to distribute to wildlife in the region through 'Vets for Compassion'.  The first plane chartered last weekend flew in Dr Elaine Ong and Dr Chris Barton- the first vets on the ground in Mallacoota.  A subsequent two plane-loads of food and veterinary supplies were sent off on Wednesday to reach the animals around the Mallacoota fire-grounds. The organisation initially struggled to get food supplies into Mallacoota because of smokey conditions there. In total the group has sent three tonnes of food for kangaroos in the area, in addition to a generator and other supplies.
It is stated that - 'With roads likely shut for weeks, the risk of starvation for surviving wildlife in the area is very real,'  'It would be tragic if there was a further loss of life because the needs of surviving animals was not being met.' 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th Jan 2020.

Iranian missile operator shoots Ukrainian passenger jet killing 176

Till a couple of decades ago, travel in an aircraft was a dream for commoner – airport and its vicinity were attractions – one could see hundreds lined-up watching with awe an aeroplane approaching to land or taking-off near Meenambakkam – not any longer – as you experience so much of air-traffic in every airport these days.

Now the World is aghast with the news of a passenger plane being shot down killing the passengers on board.  The  Iranian missile operator who shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176, opened fire because his communications jammed and he thought he had only seconds to take out an incoming cruise missile, a Revolutionary Guards commander has said.  Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards' aerospace commander, said on Saturday the operator had mistaken the Boeing 737 for a U.S. cruise missile responding to Iranian ballistic missile attacks, and only had ten seconds to decide whether or not to open fire.  'I wish I had died, and I wouldn't have seen such an incident,' Hajizadeh said somberly at a press conference. He claimed that a 'request had been made to clear the sky from civil flights at that time, but it did not happen due to reservations.'

For days, Iran vehemently denied that it was responsible for downing Flight 752 from Tehran to Kyiv on Jan 8, accusing the U.S. of spreading malicious propaganda and lies for suggesting such a scenario.

Though the World is shocked, this is not the first incident and perhaps would not be the last too .. .. .. in the  history of commercial aviation, there have been many airliner shootdown incidents which have been caused intentionally or by accident.  Years back in 1988 July, Iran Air Flight 655 from Tehran to Dubai via Bandar Abbas was shot down by an SM-2MR surface-to-air missile fired from USS Vincennes, a guided-missile cruiser of the United States Navy. The aircraft, an Airbus A300, was destroyed and all 290 people on board were killed.  The jet was hit while flying over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, along the flight's usual route, shortly after departing Bandar Abbas International Airport, the flight's stopover location. The incident occurred during the final stages of the Iran–Iraq War, which had been ongoing for nearly eight years.   According to the United States government, the crew of USS Vincennes had incorrectly identified the Airbus as an attacking F-14 Tomcat, a U.S.-made jet fighter that had been part of the Iranian Air Force inventory since the 1970s.  Decades earlier, in Aug 1938 a Douglas DC-2 airliner (the Kweilin) carrying 18 passengers and crew was destroyed by Japanese,  aircraft in China. There were fourteen fatalities. It was the first civilian airliner in history to be shot down by hostile aircraft.

After the recent shoot-down, Hajizadeh claimed that the country's top military leaders were not initially aware that their own air defense system had shot the plan down, leading to confusion. Now the country has come clean, but still blames 'US adventurism' for the fatal 'error'.  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later  extended condolences to the families of those killed in the incident, and promised that those responsible would be prosecuted. 'The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake... My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,' Rouhani said in a statement on Saturday. He said that 'the terrible catastrophe should be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible for this unforgivable mistake will definitely be identified and prosecuted'.

A military statement published by the country's state TV said it mistook the aircraft for an enemy target and 'unintentionally' fired at the plane on Tuesday, killing 176. Officials said the plane 'took the flying posture and altitude of an enemy target' as it neared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps base and soldiers did not recognize it as a passenger airliner.  While the statement called it human error, the country's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said 'US adventurism' was to blame for Iran shooting down the plane, a week after an American drone killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. Iran had denied for several days that two missiles downed the aircraft. But then the U.S. and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft. The crash site has since been cleared. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed French specialists would help decode the black boxes of the plane, Zelenskiy's office said.  Macron told Zelenskiy in a telephone call France had started a formal procedure to launch an international investigation into the crash, Zelenskiy's office said in a statement, adding that Macron had agreed to visit Kiev. The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US forces. The plane, en route to Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians,  10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons died in the gruesome missile hunt.   The Iranian Civil Aviation Organization said: 'The plane, which was initially headed west to leave the airport zone, turned right following a problem and was headed back to the airport at the moment of the crash. 'The plane disappeared from radar screens the moment it reached 8,000 feet. The pilot sent no radio message about the unusual circumstances.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani publicly addressed the revelation on Twitter, saying an internal investigation has found the missiles were launched and the country regrets the 'disastrous mistake.' 'Armed Forces' internal investigation has now concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake,' he wrote. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded that Iran punish those responsible for the downing of a Ukrainian airliner.  Tehran has handed Ukrainian experts enough data including 'all the photos, videos and other materials' to show the investigation 'will be carried out objectively and promptly,' Zelensky's office said. Iran was on high alert at the time, hours after launching ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq in a strike that caused no casualties. That missile strike was in retaliation for a U.S. operation that killed  Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.  

Sad !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar