NEW DELHI, January 2 -- Two women in India's southern Kerala state have breached a centuries-old ban on entering an ancient Hindu temple, despite strong protests by right-wing conservative groups.
Bindu and Kanakadurga, who were in their forties, walked into the Sabarimala Temple at 3:45am on Wednesday, according to the ANI news agency. The temple had been closed off to women of menstruating age until India's Supreme Court overturned the ban in September. However, opponents of the ruling continued to block women between the ages fof 10 and 50 from entering the shrine. "Today, two women entered Sabarimala Temple. We had issued standing orders to police to provide all possible protection to any woman who wants to enter the temple," Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Kerala's capital city, Trivandrum.
A video posted online by ANI showed the two women, clothed in black, hurriedly walking into the temple. They offered prayers there. The temple was briefly shut down following the move for a "purification ritual" by priests. According to the Sabarimala temple's website, women of menstruating age were not allowed to enter the shrine because its deity, Lord Ayyappa, was celibate. Since the top court's verdict, Hindu hardliners, opposed to the decision, have attacked female pilgrims, threatened journalists and pelted police with stones. On Tuesday, tens of thousands of women in Kerala formed a 620-km human chain "in support of gender equality" from Kasargod in the north to the capital, Trivandrum.
MUMBAI, December 26 -- India’s anti-terrorist agency Wednesday said it had busted a local militant cell inspired by ISIS that was planning to carry out bombings and target prominent politicians.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said 10 members of an obscure militant group called Harkat ul Harb-e-Islam were arrested in multi-city raids and a further six suspects were being questioned over their alleged links with the group. NIA spokesman Alok Mittal said arms and ammunition were recovered from the raids over 17 locations, including in the capital New Delhi, as the group prepared to strike several targets ahead of the high-profile Republic Day national event on January 26. “They were at an advanced stage of carrying a series of blasts,” Mittal told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi.
“They wanted to explode remote-controlled bombs and even conduct fidayeen [suicide] attacks.” Mittal said the group had attempted to make suicide vests and developed a homemade rocket launcher, adding that the unidentified mastermind of the weapon was based overseas. One of the accused is an engineer, he said. Authorities have previously claimed to have foiled similar ISIS-inspired cells but there is no evidence of the militant group’s presence in the country.
BANGKOK, December 26 -- Police have arrested 10 Indian men and 24 Thai women on suspicion of involvement in fake marriages.
In the ongoing crackdown on foreigners living unlawfully in the Kingdom. False documents were used to extend the men’s stay in Thailand, the Immigration Police Bureau announced on Tuesday.
The suspects were among 30 Indian men and 30 Thai women wanted in court-issued arrest warrants for forging state documents, using forged documents and filing faulty information to state officials which may result in others’ damages, police told the press. Immigration Police Bureau 1 in Bangkok had detected the fake marriages between the 30 men and 30 women, which were falsely documented in order to extend spousal visas for the men, most of whom made a living in Thailand as illegal moneylenders or salesmen for pay-by-installment goods such as clothing and electrical appliances, police explained.
The 30 women allegedly colluded in the wrongdoing by being hired, reportedly for Bt500-Bt5,000 each, to register fake marriages and submit false documents to the authorities, police said. Immigration Police Bureau 1 revoked the men’s visas and secured 60 arrest warrants for the male and female suspects. They subsequently arrested 10 of the wanted Indians and 24 of their Thai accomplices, and are continuing to look for the 26 fugitives. Police investigators have already presented evidence to revoke the suspects’ faulty marriage licenses with the respective district offices.
The announcement was made on Twitter, albeit still using the Racing Point Force India account name.
It is unclear what exactly will be unveiled in Montreal, but the accompanying picture of a car under wraps suggests that it could mean more than just the new name and livery. Indeed, with pre-season testing not getting underway until February 18, and money clearly no object at this stage, it could well be that the Silverstone-based outfit uses the occasion to unveil its car, name and livery.
Interestingly, the wrap covering the car is not the pink of Force India sponsor BWT but red, red and white being the national colours of Canada. Speaking earlier this month, team boss Otmar Szafnauer, though refusing to say if the team name will be changed, admitted that on a personal level he very much hopes so. The drivers next season will be Mexican Sergio Perez and Canadian Lance Stroll. Last week, Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene announced that the Italian team's car will be unveiled on February 15.
HANOI, January 25 -- Indian officials say their country will set up a satellite tracking and imaging centre in southern Vietnam that will give Hanoi access to pictures from Indian earth observation satellites that cover the region - including China and the South China Sea.
The move could heighten tensions between the two countries and Beijing. Both states have long-running territorial disputes with China.
India also extended a $100m credit line for Hanoi to buy patrol boats and is training Vietnamese submariners in India, while Hanoi has granted oil exploration blocks to India in waters off Vietnam that are disputed with China.
The facility will be equipped to receive images from India's Earth observation satellites that Vietnam can use in return for granting India the tracking site, said an Indian government official connected with the space programme.
"This is a sort of quid pro quo which will enable Vietnam to receive IRS [Indian remote sensing] pictures directly - that is, without asking India," said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. "Obviously it will include parts of China of interest to Vietnam."
Earth observation satellites have agricultural, scientific and environmental applications, but can also provide military intelligence. Indian media put the cost of the station at about $23m.
India - whose 54-year-old space programme is accelerating with one satellite launch scheduled every month - has ground stations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Brunei, Biak in eastern Indonesia and Mauritius that track its satellites in the initial stages of flight. The Vietnam facility will bolster those capabilities, said Deviprasad Karnik, an Indian Space Research Organisation spokesman, according to Reuters news agency.
India has 11 earth observation satellites in orbit, offering pictures with differing resolutions and areas, the ISRO said. Vietnam is one of several Southeast Asian nations involved in a territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea.
Beijing has accelerated its construction of man-made islands in the disputed waters to assert its claim to the sea, which is believed to hold vast oil and natural gas reserves. Earlier in January, Vietnam accused China of violating its sovereignty when it landed a plane on an airstrip built on an artificial island in the Spratly archipelago.
China's foreign ministry rejected the complaint, arguing that the flight was a matter "completely within China's sovereignty".
NEW DELHI, October 12 -- At least five people were killed as Cyclone Hudhud made a landfall on India's easten shores, evacuated by hundreds of thousands of people who escaped gusts of up to 195 km per hour, which uprooted trees and destroyed buildings.
Visakhapatnam, known to locals as Vizag., was the worst hit with extensive wreckage strewn across the the port city, home to two million people and a major naval base.
Most people heeded warnings to take refuge in Vizag, but five were killed by falling trees and masonry, and thousands of homes were damaged, emergency officials said, according to Reuters news agency.
The country’s meteorological department said the cyclone will maintain its intensity before weakening into a deep depression after about six hours of its landfall. The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, the state that bore the brunt of Hudhud's onslaught, said the extent of damage could only be assessed after the storm subsides, possibly by Monday.
"We are unable to ascertain the situation. Seventy percent of communication has totally collapsed ... this is the biggest calamity," N. Chandrababa Naidu told Headlines Today television. "We are asking people not to come out of their houses," Naidu said. Disaster relief agencies had evacuated more than 150,000 people on Saturday.
India's meteorological department predicted more damage in the coastal states of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha with the storm expected to lash the coastline for the next few hours. A storm surge of 1-2 meters above high tide is also forecast, which could result in flooding in some areas.
Military on standby
Officials stockpiled emergency supplies and rescue workers were on standby along the coastlines of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states on Saturday. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a high-level emergency meeting to review the arrangements made in preparation of the storm.
Officials said four naval ships and nine air force helicopters were on standby for relief and rescue operations, while army soldiers and federal rescue workers were also on hand. The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal - and have landed in either India or Bangladesh.
In 1999, a cyclone devastated Odisha's coastline and killed at least 10,000 people.
MUMBAI, October 12 -- Indian authorities are evacuating hundreds of thousands of people as a powerful cyclone swept through the Bay of Bengal and headed towards the country's east coast.
Officials were stockpiling emergency supplies and rescue workers were on standby along the coastlines of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states on Saturday, with Cyclone Hudhud expected to make landfall near the port city of Visakhapatnam around noon on Sunday.
The India Meteorological Department described Hudhud as a "very severe" storm that could pack winds of 195 kilometers (120 miles) per hour and cause torrential rains when it makes landfall.
The cyclone was 330 kilometers (205 miles) southeast of Visakhapatnam on Saturday afternoon. About 150,000 people had been evacuated by late afternoon, with around 400,000 more expected to be relocated by the end of the day.
Four districts in Andhra Pradesh state that are home to more than 14 million people - Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari - are likely to be worst hit by the storm. Authorities in the state set up 370 relief camps to house evacuees.
Officials said four naval ships and nine air force helicopters were on standby for relief and rescue operations, while army soldiers and federal rescue workers were also on hand. The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal - and have landed in either India or Bangladesh. In 1999, a cyclone devastated Odisha's coastline and killed at least 10,000 people.
MUMBAI, September 24 -- An Indian spacecraft has reached Mars and entered the planet's orbit, in a historic feat crowning India as the first country to execute such a mission in its maiden attempt.
Scientists in the command centre in Bangalore broke into wild cheers on Wednesday as the orbiter's engines completed 24 minutes of burn time and manoeuvered into its designated orbit.
Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, hailed the feat of Indian engineering: "Congratulations to all, to the entire country ... history has been created today. We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and innovation."
The success of the Mars orbiter mission, lauded for its low $74m cost, has placed India in an elite club of Martian explorers with the US, the European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union.
"The amount our scientists have spent on this mission is even less than what they spend in making Hollywood movies," Modi said in a televised address to the mission scientists.
India has said the spacecraft, called Mangalyaan in Hindi, was chiefly meant to showcase the country's ability to design, plan, manage and operate a deep-space mission.
India has already conducted dozens of successful satellite launches, including sending up the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, which discovered key evidence of water on the Moon in 2008.
The Mars probe is expected to circle the planet for six months, about 500km above its surface. Its scientific instruments will collect data and send it back to Earth.
Five solar-powered instruments will help determine how Martian weather systems work and what happened to the water that is believed to have once existed on Mars in large quantities.
The probe will also search for methane, a key chemical in life processes on Earth that could also come from geological processes.
NEW DELHI, September 18 -- India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on China to settle very soon border disputes along the Line of Actual Control that is a de facto border with China.
Speaking at a joint news conference upon the talks with Chinese President XI Jinping who is here with a three-day state visit, Modi said: “We have to address the boundary question very soon,” and called for a clear determination of the Line of Actual Control.
China’s President Xi Jinping confirmed that China was set to solve the issue by diplomatic means.
"China-India border issue is a problem which has troubled both sides for long,” Xi said. “It should be resolved in the foreseeable future. China is determined to demarcate the border in a short span of time.”
Modi confirmed India’s stance on Tibet that, as he said, was part of China and assured Xi that he would not allow Tibetans to carry out any anti-China actions in India.
The two leaders also discussed key issues of economic collaboration. China made public its intentions to invest $20 billion in India’s economy in the following five years, according to the Five Year Trade and Economic Development Plan that was signed during the visit of the Chinese president. China is due to support India’s bid to join the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO).
“China welcomes and supports India’s willingness to become a full-fledged member of the SCO,” Xi Jinping said.
One of the top authors of The Peet Journal is Pete McGea. As a native born Scotsman, Pete
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