Ten women beat their drums atop a roof in a Bihar village. This is a daily sight now in Dhibra, where a group of Mahadalit women have formed a successful band which assembles for practice each morning after they finish their household chores. They initially faced discouragement from their husbands and others in the village, who asserted that this was “a man’s job”, but now their efforts are paying off. They are booked for a wedding or some other event on most days, with each member earning Rs 1,000-1,200 per day, up from a rate of Rs 500 when they turned professional at the end of 2014. The group was formed with the support of the Nari Gunjan Sanstha, an NGO established by Padma Shri recipient Sudha Varghese. “Without her encouragement, we would have ended up as daily wagers,” said team leader Sabita Devi.
Gau Forth and Multiply
At an average height of just 90 cm and weighing 130 kg, the Vechur cow is the world’s smallest breed of cattle. Named after a village in Kerala’s Kottayam district, it was at risk of extinction until the Kerala Agriculture University initiated a conservation programme roughly 20 years ago. Now, with a population of around 4,000 in the state, Muhamma panchayat in Alappuzha district has decided to set up a first-of-its-kind ‘super speciality’ breeding centre. “This is an attempt to promote natural breeding of the Vechur cattle. The panchayat has been offered a purebred Vechur bull by a farmer. We hope to commence the project by December-end,” said panchayat head J. Jayalal. Purebred Vechur cattle are said to produce milk that is good for health, and they are less likely to catch respiratory infections than crossbred cows, say experts.
UP’s anti-Romeo squads continue to amaze. Some members, both male and female, recently attended a course at IIM-Lucknow, which covered anger management, transaction analysis and emotional intelligence. In addition to lessons in gender sensitisation, body language and micro-expressions, the cops received training from psychotherapists who introduced them to meditative techniques designed to help them manage anger. Programme leader Himanshu Rai said, “Focus was on communicating with patriarchy, where we question women more than we do perpetrators. We tell police personnel to take assertive leadership, but not without empathy.” For male cops, emphasis was to use stress reduction therapy and convince them not to resort to physical force; female cops were trained in “regulating emotions”.
Bare Bones and Laddoos
The austere nuptials of Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi’s son have attracted much comment. The guests, who had all been invited via e-mail or WhatsApp, arrived to find that there was neither band nor baraat, and they were offered a packet of laddoos in lieu of a lavish wedding feast. Instead of receiving gifts, a counter was kept open for the guests to sign pledges to the effect that they would conduct marriages without dowry, and there was another one where they could commit to organ donation. Perhaps Modi was inspired by Karnataka’s former social welfare minister, H. Anjaneya, whose daughter was married in a mass ceremony in 2014 along with more than 90 other couples. The guests were served a meal consisting of rice, sambhar and payasam, while the minister presented a number of poor families with cows.
Major Event For Pakistan Army
Hercharn Singh broke new ground ten years ago when he became the Pakistan army’s first Sikh commissioned officer. Now holding the rank of major, he got married at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal on December 3, with several serving and retired army officers in attendance. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) released a statement saying that army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had sent the major his best wishes. Major General Asif Ghafoor, director-general of ISPR and the army’s official spokesperson, extended his congratulations to the newlyweds via Twitter, adding “Pak Army is symbol of national integration and Pakistanis respect rights of our religious minorities.”
This Thief Went Nuts
In Saliawewa, in Sri Lanka’s northwestern province, a motorcyclist stole 20 coconuts worth Rs 1,600 from a shop, while leaving his Rs 2,000-helmet behind in his rush to flee. According to the shop owner, the motorcyclist had arrived and asked about the price of coconuts, haggling with his wife over reducing it from Rs 85 to Rs 80 each, saying they were needed for a religious function. After she agreed and packed the coconuts in a bag, the customer asked her for 5 kg of rice. He sped off when she had gone inside to weigh the rice, forgetting his helmet lying in the shop.
Cast Out From The Summit
Pemba Dorje Sherpa was recorded as having climbed Mt Everest in eight hours and ten minutes on May 21, 2004, setting a Guinness World Record for the fastest ascent. But a petition filed by Lalu Gelu Sherpa, who claimed the record in 2003 with a time of 10 hours and 56 minutes, challenged the veracity of Pemba Dorje’s time. A bench of Nepal’s Supreme Court has issued an order annulling the government’s recognition of the record, finding that the ministry of culture and tourism issued a summit certificate without following verification procedures in the Mountaineering Regulation. In spite of Guinness records having ‘thoroughly verified’ Dorje’s claim, Lalu Gelu will be the new record holder.
Onwards To Jerusalem
Kashmir may no longer be an issue behind which Muslim opinion can easily be rallied. The Palestinian cause, though, still has the potential of evoking a strong response worldwide. Pakistan now wants to take the lead in rallying Islamic nations against Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Pakistan wants to convene a conference of Islamic nations over Trump’s Jerusalem decision. It is being seen as a desperate ploy to shake off its isolation.
The US president’s decision has sparked off angry protests from America’s friends and foes alike in the Arab world. But Pakistan feels this is an opportunity for it to come back to the world stage. It wants to do so by hosting a major conference of Islamic nations against legitimising Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital. Leader of Pakistan’s senate, Raja Zafarul Haq called for a conference of Muslim nations to discuss President Trump’s decision to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In a notification on Wednesday, Senator Haq raised concerns regarding Trump’s decision which, according to him, has disappointed Muslim countries across the world. “The hope for peace and justice has been squashed with Trump’s announcement,” the Dawn newspaper quoted Haq as saying. The senator warned that the US president’s move will increase tension in the Middle East, with repercussions being felt beyond the region.
Haq demanded an emergency session of the Muslim countries be convened—something similar to the emergency meetings of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference called by Jordan to discuss Trump’s new policy.
Washington’s endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse a long-standing policy that the city’s status must be decided through negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The international community also does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, which is home to sites holy to Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
US allies in West Asia, have warned Trump about his decision which is likely to spark off another long spell of violence and political instability. But Pakistan’s decision to become a champion of this issue is interesting, much of which stems from its current isolation and attempt to be seen as a responsible player, particularly in the Islamic world.
Under pressure from Trump’s America for its reluctance to take action against terrorist organisations operating from its soil, this can help the Pakistani leadership to ease off the pressure by diverting focus elsewhere.
Illustrations by Sajith Kumar