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The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

Shrine That Minds National Security

Goddess Bagalamukhi, the presiding deity of Pitampura Peeth in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh, is widely known to be “Raj Satta Devi”. Many followers trace the orgin of the shrine, famous for its tantric powers, to the era of the Mahabharata, and believe that the deity helps devotees wield political power by weakening their rivals. From Laloo Prasad Yadav and Raj Thackeray to Vasundhara Raje , many politicians are known to have performed yagna at the shrine over the years. Local priests claim that the famous shrine had played a key role in seeing India through hard times during the Indo-China War, the Bangladesh Liberation War and the Kargil War. A plaque at the temple proclaims that on the concluding day of an 11-day yagna performed at the behest of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962, the Chinese army had withdrawn its troops from Indian territories. Maybe it’s time for another yagna.

Holy Trees As Deterrent Against Open Defecation

Gonda had its moments of embarrassment when it was adjudged the dirtiest city in the country in a recent survey. But the city’s authorities have now resolved to take appropriate measures to undo the damage. Firstly, they have decided to check open defecation by planting trees with religious significance. Saplings of Peepul, Banyan, Neem and bushes of Tulsi are being planted across the district to dissuade people from relieving themselves at public places. They believe people will never def­­ecate near any tree they worship. Divya Mittal, chief development officer of Gonda, says that the plantation drive will be undertaken in 16 blocks and the 80 villages selected for it are the ones where people still defecate in the open, despite having most toilets in the district. The officials hope for success.

Pak Woman’s Adventure To Boost Tourism

In a conservative society like Pakistan’s, it is extre­mely difficult for women to break proverbial glass ceilings, but once in a while there arise excepti­ons. Gul Afshan Tariq recently completed a 22-day journey through the difficult terrains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on a motorbike—the first Pakistani woman to do so. Her 1,500-km journey covered Dir, Chitral, Mastuj, Bumburet, Kohat, Harripur, Peshawar and other places. Gul, whose adventure was sponsored by Pakistan’s tourism developm­ent corporation, says Pak­­­i­­stan is a beautiful country and has five of the 14 highest peaks in the world. It was also the seat of civilisations such as Indus Valley and Gandhara, she says, adding that Pakistan’s imp­ro­ved law and order situation has made it conducive for tourism.

No Chic Beards, Please!

Designer beards are out, at least in Kharan district in Pakistan’s Bal­ochistan. Local authorities have prohibited stylish beards and warned of heavy fines if any barber violates the directive. As per an order issued by the office of the district assistant commissioner Moh­­ammed Baksh Sajdi, all barbers were restricted from cutting beards in a fashionable way since it is against the principles of Islam. “Keep the beard simple,” says the May 29 order. “Don’t design them.” The order, which disheartened many youngsters, came after a cleric complained about the popularity of stylish beards. The order has since been withdrawn in the face of sharp pub­­lic criticism, but Sajdi maintains that magistrates can ban anything and they can summon any barber and order them to desist from fashioning chic beards.

China’s Own Nalanda University

The revival of the anc­ient Nalanda University in Bihar, which was visited by Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century AD, has remained mired in controversy. Now, China appears to have quietly launched its own Buddhist university in Hainan province. This is des­­pite China being associated with the original Nalanda from the very beginning. The Nanhai Buddhist College is set to take off with 220 students on a campus spread across 618.8 acres on the idyllic Nanshan Mountains.  China has also rechristened the university’s coastline as Brahma Pure land,” a concept borrowed from Yoga Vashishtha and Mah­­­a­­yana Buddhism. The Chinese Nalanda will offer courses in Pali, Tibetan and Chinese in six dep­artments of various aspects of Buddhism. Monk Yin Shun is appointed dean.

No Tears, Only Crocodile

A 17-foot-long crocodile has been caught by locals in the village of Thibbotuwawa, Akuressa, in Sri Lanka. The villagers tied it on a board before carrying it through the village. They, however, had to chop down trees and plants in the process to make it easier to transport the enormous crocodile, which was later brought to a wildlife conservation department office.

No Peak Pleasure For Polish Man

Nepal has banned a Polish man from climbing any mountain in the country for 10 years after he climbed Mount Everest last month without a proper permit. Janusz Adam Adamski, 49, from Szczecin in Pol­and, climbed the world’s highest peak on May 21 from the Chinese route and descended on the Nep­ali side of the mountain. Adamski had a Chinese permit but did not have permission to descend the mountain from the Nepali side. Ada­mski told officials that he chose the Nepali route for his descent because he was running short of oxygen and hoped to find help on the Nepali side, where there were many climbers at the time. Nepal charges $11,000 for an Everest permit. An Indian couple was banned last year for digitally altering photographs to prove that they had reached the summit.

BNP Leader’s Day Out

Forcible eviction of any person from his home is bound to draw public attention and involves high voltage drama. The scope of attention and drama, both expand significantly if the person happens to be a political figure.

When Moudud Ahmed, a former minister and standing committee member of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was ousted from his residence at the posh Gulshan locality in Dhaka, there was, predictably, a lot of attention, both from the public and the media.

For many old timers in Delhi the episode may have brought back memories of the 1980s when Indira Gandhi had deci­ded to throw out her daughter-in-law Maneka Gandhi from her residence after her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi’s tragic death in an air crash.

Ahmed said he was wrongfully evicted from his ancestral home, where he had been residing for over three decades by the local authorities because he belonged to the Opposition party.

According to reports, action was taken by the capital development aut­h­orities in Dhaka following a Sup­­reme Court order that ruled Ahmed had been staying illegally at his residence. Rajuk, the Dhaka development authority, took act­ion accordingly. The former minister soon found him­self out in the streets along with furniture and other possessions.

Though Ahmed claimed his eviction had been “unlawful and une­­thical,” the apex court had ruled that he had lost his claim to the Gulshan house and the­refore, had to be forced out of the premise.

BNP member Moudud Ahmed’s documents for his house in posh Dhaka was deemed unreliable by the SC. Soon, he was out on the streets.

Ahmed, a well-known political figure, had apparently taken possession of the property in the early 1970s after the own­ers of the house left Dhaka. Providing documents that showed his ownership, Ahmed enjoyed it for decades. But the SC felt the documents were questionable and ruled that there was nothing to establish the BNP leader’s ownership.

BNP supremo Begum Khaleda Zia visited her beleagured party colleague later in the evening on the day of the eviction and questioned if a person with a track record as a freedom fighter should be treated shabbily.

Much of the posturing from the BNP and the ruling party over the issue obviously is being done keeping in mind the impending parliamentary election due for January 2018. But while the BNP wanted to highlight the Awami League government’s high-handedness in dealing with the issue, it was also mindful of not being seen as a party that wrongfully supports land-grabbing by its party leaders.

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar


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