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The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

Yogic Ripples In Nepal

Nepal usually doesn’t show much interest on which political figures are chosen as chief ministers in Indian states that borders the country. But the BJP’s decision to choose Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister has generated a lot of speculation in Nepalese political circles. The secular forces in the country, like their counterpart in India, are suspicious that Adityanath’s choice does not bode well for them. But proponents of the deposed Hindu monarchy are on supremely high spirits. Adityanath, the firebrand cleric of Gorakhpur, has enjoyed close relations with the Shah monarchs of Nepal in the past and has considerable influence there. Though Nepal is now a republic, sections of the populace ardently wish for a restoration of the monarchy and turning back the clock to make it a ‘Hindu state’ yet again. With Adityanath in the UP CM’s chair, these diehard royalists feel hopeful that help from India is soon to come their way, that a Hindu King will rule Nepal again.


A Denim Capital Nearer Home

Next time you buy a pair of branded jeans, it might surprise you that the denim you are about to slip into comes from much nearer home than you would have imagined—Bangladesh. If the current trend continues, Bangladesh could soon become the denim capital of the world. It has already overtaken China as the largest denim supplier to the European Union, and is likely to reach the $50 billion mark by 2021 through garment export. It is also the third largest supplier of denim to the US.  Over the past years, more than $1 billion has been invested in the sector to set up state-of-the-art factories in different parts of the country. Bangladesh has over 30 mills and produces more than 435 million yards of denim each year. All major global brands, like Levi’s, Diesel, G-Star, Wrangler and Hugo Boss today rely on Bangladeshi denim.

Fight For The Acronym

The Bard of Avon may have argued that there is nothing in a name, but the babus from the Indian Foreign Service and the Indian Forest Service are fighting over the (same) acr­­onym of their services—both claiming an exclusive right to its usage. The Union ministry of external affairs recently wrote to the Department of Personnel and Training, seeking its right to the usage of IFS for its officers and IFoS for those from the Indian Forest Service. This, however, is deemed unacceptable by the forest officials, who say that all over the country, IFS has always stood for its officers. The Indian Foreign Service came into being in 1946, while the forest service was created two decades later, in 1966.

Better Half And Her Assets

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah may have been married to UK-based Molly for many decades, but he has no idea about the assets she owns. The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, who is contesting the impending by-election to the Srinagar-Badgam Lok Sabha constitue­ncy, has stated in his affidavit that he had no knowledge about his spouse’s assets, as she had been living in London since April 1990. Farooq, however, has clarified that she does not have any property in her name in Jammu and Kashmir. The couple, incidentally, has three daughters, Sara, Safia and Hinna, besides a son, Omar Abdullah. Farooq had married Molly, a nurse, way back in the 1960s while he was studying medicine in the UK. Reports say she had donated her kidney to him when he fell ill and needed a transplant in 2014.

Soothsayers Are Back With A Flash

Soothsayers, mediums and wizards dabbling in the occult have been in great demand ever since military rule came to an end in Myanmar. People are flocking to them to seek help through black magic not only to resolve matters of the heart, but also for communicating with the spirits. Many in the country are firm believers in tantric rituals and used to look up to semi-divine Buddhist saints called ‘weikza’ to fight oppression during the British regime. Gen Ne Win, who ruled Burma in 1950s and 1960s, reportedly used to take bath in dolphins’ blood, believing it would help him regain his youth. Most of these sects had gone underground after the military junta seized power in 1962. After it relinquished direct power in 2011, such hoary practi­ces are embraced again by the common Myanmarese.

Getting A Religion By Choice In Pak

It may sound incredible but the Paki­st­ani government has allowed a 29-year-old man to change his officially registered rel­­igion from Islam to Judaism. Fishel Ben­khald, born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother in 1987, was registered as a Muslim in the National Database but wanted to con­­vert/correct his religion to Judaism in his national identity. A wish like this runs the risk of being charged with blasphemy, but the ministry of interior gave the go-ahead when the activist moved an application.

The Roads Women Walk On

It is not necessary to name roads only after the posthumous notables. In Jharkhand, roads are being named after educa­ted girls to give a fillip to female literacy and women’s empowerment. Juri, a remote village under Patka block of East Singhbhum district, has set an example by naming roads after locals Sumita Bhattacharya, Baisakhi Gope and Manimala Sikdar. The village has only a middle school, forcing students to walk 3 km to a high school and 30 km to a college. Since many girls desisted from pursuing higher education because of this, the village committee resolved to name the lanes after those girls who had continued their education despite the overwhelming odds.

Other Side Of Alliance

After days of speculation, Pakistan has finally confir­med that its former army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, will now head the newly formed Saudi-led military alliance to fight in strife-torn Yemen.

The proposed group, called the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), will be an alliance of 39 countries and is being seen as a Muslim-Nato.

Since his retirement as COAS of Pakistan late last year, Gen Sharif had sought a “no objection certificate” from the government to enable him to take up his new posting. But the Nawaz Sharif government, which had serious reservations of joining any military alliance to fight a war in the Muslim world, had been dragging its feet over the issue for months. It had earlier turned down an offer from Saudi Arabia to commit Pakistani troops to join the Saudi-led fight in Yemen.

But the government has now iss­ued a no-objection certificate to Gen Sharif, after an understanding was reached between Pakistan and the Saudi government recen­tly, says the Dawn newspaper.

A consultative meeting of the def­ence ministers of the alliance mem­bers is scheduled for May and Gen Sharif is likely to take his new charge before that. The forthcoming meeting of the alliance par­­t­­ners next month would decide the force’s structure, contribution in terms of personnel and armaments, reserves and modalities.

Joining the Saudi-led military alliance, likely to be used in Yemen, might lead to Shia-Sunni sectarian strife in Pakistan.

The existing rules in Pakistan allow retired military offi­cials to take up appointments after retirement only in government ministries or divisions. The fact that Sharif’s government bent its rule to allow the former army chief to join the new military alliance shows the important role Saudi Arabia continues to play in Pakistani politics.

However, the move is a controversial one and has the pot­ential of adding fresh strains in Pakistan’s ties with Iran. Des­pite being a Sunni-majority country, over 20 per cent of its population are Shia Muslims. Though it has not yet been specifically spelt out, the new military alliance being cobbled together by the Saudis are to fight in the civil strife in Yemen, where the opposition Houthi rebels are allegedly being propped up by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran.

The government’s decision on Gen Sharif might also encou­rage various militant groups to carry out attacks against the Shia community. Besides, it is likely to widen the religious divide within Pakistan. More importantly, what role Iran now plays in Afghanistan could also add to Pakistan’s worries for its future role in the war-torn neighbouring country.


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