Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The glittering glamour world of India is and has always been an aspiration for majority of the youth. People in India idolize film stars and worship them. The world of entertainment attracts thousands of people all over the year viz. models, middle class people, musicians, actors trying to get a break and become famous. People leave their homes and families glared by the attractive side of the industry. Drawn by the intoxicating and flashy allure, all these aspirants see themselves as Amitabh Bacchan, Shahrukh Khan and Aishwariya Rai!

But what we don’t understand is that just as there is a dark side to the moon, there is a dark side to this shining industry as well. It is full of ‘behind the curtain’ stories that are not shown on the screen, that do not make the headlines and that are taken off the records.

Multimillion-dollar bungalows and sleek black Porches & Ferraris serve both, as an inspiration and a frustrating reminder of how far away the dream still is. This frustration devastates the lives of the wannabes, in the end. People with ambitions come and in the process, get lost in the fast moving world. There are a lot of unforeseen circumstances which take place and project the bad side of the glamour world. But by the time people realize, it is too late.

It is not just glamour, glory and grandeur. Behind the scenes are the toil, challenges, hardships and rigors. It is a laborer’s job and one has to withstand mental, creative pressure. Respect comes after a lot of slog and those who cannot cope up, succumb badly. It is not as rosy as it looks unless one has a family hierarchy in the industry, a huge amount of cash or the backing of a rich businessperson willing to invest!


Victim: Raj Kiran

Immediately related to ‘Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho…’ and recalled as the one who played Rishi Kapoor’s ‘pre-incarnation’ in Subhash Ghai’s ‘Karz’, actor Raj Kiran had gone missing for almost a decade. Later, he was also assumed dead by his friends. However, some of his friends and co-actors refused to believe his death rumors and decided to launch a search for their missing friend.  The entire search process commenced with the Facebook campaign of Deepti Naval who had acted with the actor in the film ‘Hip Hip Hurray’. She posted on the social networking site, “Looking for a friend from the film world, his name is Raj Kiran – we have no news of him – last heard he was driving a cab in NY city, if anyone has any clue, please tell…” “All we need to know is that Raj Kiran is okay somewhere… would love to reach out to him… he is a good actor – remember ‘Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho – kya gham hai jisko chhupa rahe ho…’ she said.   Meanwhile, actor Rishi Kapoor took it upon himself to find out. During a recent trip to the US, he looked up to Raj’s elder brother, Govind Mehtani to get more information – and that is when the truth was established. Raj Kiran has been fending for himself, without any family support at a mental health home in Atlanta. Says Rishi, “I’ve been wondering where Raj had disappeared. The question was haunting me for a very long time. Then these rumors of Raj being no more began doing the rounds. I was really disturbed. How can a colleague with whom I shared some really good times just vanish from the face of earth? I decided to look up Raj’s elder brother Govind Mehtani to find out about Raj.” But the irony is that his brothers – Govind and Ajit – had deserted him in his time of need. They didn’t even have a contact number to pass on to Rishi Kapoor. The actor was abandoned by his son and wife long back. The incident resulted in erratic mood swings and an acute mental depression. He was institutionalized in India before he was shifted to the US. He looks after his own treatment by working within the institution. It’s a heart-rending situation for an actor who was so successful at one time. Raj Kiran has worked in films like BR Ishaara’s Kaagaz Ki Nao, Ghar Ho To Aisa with Anil Kapoor, Meenakshi Sheshadri and Deepti Naval and Kaaran apart from Subhash Ghai’s hit Karz and Mahesh Bhatt’s critically acclaimed Arth in the 1980s.

Victim: Parveen Babi   

Known for her glamorous long tresses, Parveen Babi was the sizzling glamour doll of the 70s and 80s. In her heydays, she romanced some of the best-looking men in the industry. Parveen never married but had relationships with many married men – director Mahesh Bhatt, actors Kabir Bedi and Danny Denzongpa. She was also strongly rumored to have had an affair with her co-star of many films, Amitabh Bachchan.   Parveen began her career with modeling and later shifted to the film industry. She was considered one of the most successful actors of her era. She starred in Deewar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Shaan, Namak Halal, Suhaag, Kala Patthar and others.   Like many other stars, she was also encircled in many controversies. She had accused many foreign dignitaries and her former co-star, Amitabh Bachchan, of conspiring to kill her, but her petition in court was dismissed for lack of evidence.   Parveen was too outspoken and openly talked about drugs; she even openly advocated her free love. However, she completely vanished from the industry in the mid-80s. She reportedly suffered from schizophrenia and sought mental solace through alternative contemporary spirituality. Parveen had then shifted to New York and when she returned, she was unrecognizable as her former self after having put on a considerable amount of weight.    Parveen had withdrew herself from the public due to her mental instability. She was found dead in her Mumbai apartment on January 22, 2005 after her residential society secretary complained to the police that she had not collected milk and newspapers from her doorstep for the past two days. The whole industry went gaga with her on-screen presence. But she died a lonely, controversial and forgotten death.

Victims: Geetanjali Nagpal, Renu Rathi 

The journey from ramp to road is very frequent when it comes to modeling. The story of Geetanjali Nagpal, a designer turned model, is hard to believe. She was one of the top models appearing in the best of advertisements with brands like Lakme. Geetanjali once walked over ramp with Miss Universe 1994, Sushmita Sen in the 90s and others of same class.    The model is believed to have been a victim of drug abuse and alcohol addiction. She was rescued from the pavements in the national capital by a team from Delhi Commission for Women. They found her living off the streets, spending her nights in parks and temples and working as a maid. She also spent her nights with men for money to quell her craving for drugs.   After she was rescued from begging at a posh market in Delhi, she was admitted to VIMHANS Hospital, where doctors diagnosed her as suffering from fear psychosis. Similar is the story of the model Renu Rathi. She was found on the streets outside her rented flat in Bandra, Mumbai. She was allegedly lying there for two days without food or water after her landlord allegedly ‘threw her out’. Not being able to get success under big banners, Renu had turned to drugs.


Everyone, be it you or me, desires instant acquisition of money and fame. But it doesn’t take long before these ambitions get lost in the big, bad world, where there is ruthless competition in every step of ascent to the top. Unpredictability of personal relationships, lack of privacy, high depression levels and ever-increasing ego problems with the competitors also pop up with time. For some, the pressure is too much to bear, which pushes them towards dark paths of drugs, alcohol and crime.   It is worth pursuing as a career only if one is well aware of the pros and cons and is willing to cope with the failures. And remember, not all that glitters is gold!

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The BWF has come up with new clothing regulations for the female Badminton players. The move came as a part of an overall campaign to raise the profile of women in Badminton and profile of the sport. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) is the governing body for the sport of Badminton and has its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with an office in Lausanne, Switzerland. The rule 19.2 of the General Competition Regulation requires female players to wear skirts or wrap arounds for Level 1 to 3 tournaments. This specific regulation has its genesis in the extensive review into the marketing and events structure conducted by an external international marketing agency in 2009.

The new rule was supposed to be enforced on May 1, 2011, the date from which the 2012 Olympic qualification period begins. But it has been granted a month’s extension and it will come into effect from June 1. The game’s governing body said that the postponement would give enough time to the shuttlers to adapt to this change. Also, it will provide an opportunity for its members to understand the reasons behind this rule, leading up to its May 28 Annual General Meet in Qingdao, China. Thus, now, the Li Ning Singapore Open, which will be held at the Indoor Stadium from June 14 to 19, will be the first tournament where all female badminton players must wear a skirt.

The BWF has developed guidelines to implement this rule, to ensure that it will not, in any way discriminate against any religious or other beliefs and respect women. Players can continue to wear shorts if they wish but they need to wear a skirt over the top of the shorts, as is often practiced already by some players.



“Sometimes it is necessary to make rules to get a consistent implementation. BWF have for many years encouraged both, Badminton clothing manufacturers and players, to produce and wear clothing that would enhance the presentation of the game in general. We are, however, always willing to listen to the players, which is why we have decided to delay the implementation date … to be able to advise and have a dialogue with the players on the implementation guidelines.”

SAINA NEHWAL (World number 3 Indian shuttler)
“The stadium is always packed whenever I play, even if I’m in shorts. Let’s see how well they can promote the sport through

this rule. I am sure it will be made optional after two months. Badminton is a lot about jumping and running across the court. Once the players start getting uncomfortable doing this while wearing skirts, I am sure they will fight against the rule together.”

JWALA GUTTA (India’s doubles specialist)
“I have no problems because I wear skirts on and off the court. I think they are just trying to glamorize the sport. But I don’t think it’s the right way. You cannot make it compulsory for everyone to wear skirts. It depends on each individual and their comfort level. I am not sure people will like being told what to wear and what not to.”

ASHWINI PONNAPPA (India’s doubles specialist)
“I personally feel happy about it because I am quite comfortable wearing it. But I know a lot of girls would not be comfortable with it. It is quite interesting for those who like it. A lot of Indian girls like wearing shorts as they have always played with shorts but even in skirts, you can wear shorts underneath it, so it would take a little time for them to get used to it.”

YASMIN ABRAR (National Commission for Women – India)
“Sports should be treated as sports. Forcing a dress code to make a game attractive is wrong. What is important is your performance, not what you wear.”

NORA PERRY (Former world champion, Head – BWF Women in Badminton Working Group)
“I am thrilled to be part of putting the women’s game higher on the agenda in the BWF. And the new clothing regulations are one of the tools that can help create a better presentation and more distinct profile of the women’s game. We need to be able to differentiate the women’s game to create the attention that the women’s

game deserves. Being a woman myself, I do not think that the rules in any way discriminate against women. The rules give sufficient room for the players to chose comfortable clothing and still be living up to the intentions of the regulations.”

LILIYANA NATSIR (Mixed doubles world champion – Indonesia)
“I wear skirts or such dresses only in special occasions, but never in tournaments. Skirts hamper my movement when I play.”

“Most of the time, I just want to find an excuse not to wear a skirt. Just the way you play, it’s really different. Your movement is limited. Thankfully, this rule is only for BWF events, not local ones.”

GREYSIA POLII (Women’s doubles specialist – Indonesia)
“I have no problem with it. If some people are not comfortable with it, I think it should be made optional. I believe this rule was made with the best intentions. Let’s just hope that it will do the sport good and more sponsors do come in to support Badminton.”

SHANTANU AND NIKHIL MEHRA (Fashion designers – Sports)
“What is important is the comfort of the players. They should be allowed to wear what they want.”

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This was the need of the hour. A person who can connect alike with the young and the old, a person who can awaken the mass, who can shake up governments, who has the power to mobilize the youth, the power to lend voice to the people’s decisions – a decision that marks the beginning of a bright future. We have the man we were waiting for, Anna Hazare.


The face of India’s fight against corruption, Anna Hazare is a social activist and a veteran Gandhian. Kisan Baburao Hazare, as his real name goes, was born on 15 January, 1940 in a small village called Bhingar in Maharashtra. He was brought up by a childless aunt who funded his education in Mumbai but financial instability pushed him into selling flowers for a living and he had to quit studies after Class VII. Anna Hazare started his career as a driver in the Indian Army in 1963. He fought the 1965 Indo-Pak War in which he was the lone survivor in a border exchange of fire.

Anna left the army and shifted to Ralegaon Siddhi, a village in Ahmednagar district, in 1975. The village then, was in the grip of drought, poverty, crimes and alcoholism. It was then that the 39 year old Anna decided to develop the village. The village, today is considered as a model village for it is self-sustained, eco-friendly & harmonic. Energy is produced in the village itself from solar power, bio-fuel and wind mills.

Anna lives in a small room attached to the Yadavbaba temple in Ralegaon Siddhi, and calls himself a fakir. He says he is a man with no family, no property and no bank balance.


Anna is supporting a cause, the amendment of a law to curb corruption in India. And whenever he starts a protest, every leader from Mumbai to Delhi gets alert, sits up and takes notice.
Anna is advocating the Jan Lokpal Bill (The Citizen Ombudsman Bill), that will form an autonomous authority who will make politicians (ministers), bureaucrats (IAS/IPS) accountable for their deeds. In 1972, the bill was proposed by the then Law minister, Shanti Bhushan. But since then, it has been neglected and some are even trying to change the bill to suit their interests.


India witnessed the rise of another Gandhi in Anna Hazare. People took it to the streets for the man who is fighting our second war of Independence, freedom from corruption.
The support was by the group of frustrated Indians, who before the coming of Anna into picture, simply did nothing, but cursed the systems. They were directionless. But the change-maker Anna provided a platform, a realization of people’s capability and strength. People supported him not because he was a great person, but because he was not one! The mass believed in him as he came without any political or any other intervention. He came as a solution to end the corruption, a ray of hope. He became the voice to people’s mounting frustrations and doubling anger.
The social networking sites did their bit by starting the ‘India against Corruption’ campaigns. It attracted more than 80,000 people on Facebook and 4,000 on Twitter. Apart from this, Baba Ramdev, Mallika Sarabhai, Kiran Bedi, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, film stars like Aamir Khan, Anupam Kher and others also stood by Anna Hazare.


The Jan Lokpal Bill, also known as the People’s Ombudsman Bill, is an anti-corruption bill drafted by prominent figures – Justice Santosh Hegde (ex-Supreme Court judge and present Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist) – to put in place a unit to check corruption.
Under this bill, an independent body similar to the Election Commission needs to be formed that has the power to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without prior Government permission. It seeks the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, which would investigate all corruption cases and complete the probe within a span of a year, with a view to start a trial of the case. The trial should be completed within the next year. It also envisages a system where a corrupt person when found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated.

The Lokpal Bill has previously been introduced eight times (in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and as recently as 2008) in the Parliament, and despite being passed in the Lok Sabha on one instance in 1969, the bill never got passed in the Rajya Sabha then and has since been kept on hold.


It was January 30, Martyr’s Day, when Anna Hazare first took out a rally against corruption in over 60 cities to demand an effective Lokpal bill. He further announced a fast unto death from April 5 if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not take a decision on including civil society in drafting the Lokpal Bill.

The decision shook up entire India that stood up for the fight against corruption. The PM discussed the matter with the Gandhian and set up sub-committee to look into the Lokpal Bill, members include ministers AK Antony, M Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal and Sharad Pawar. But the committee did not take any commendable decisions.

The fast started as planned, amongst the support of thousands of Indians and the pressure increased day by day. Candle-light marches, protests and slogans gained momentum. Finally, on the fourth day of the fast, on 8th April, Anna announced to break his fast as the Government agreed to notify formation of a panel, with 50% civil society members, to draft the anti-corruption law and to introduce it in the monsoon session of parliament.

The man created a history!


It’s time we sideline everything and focus on this issue. The movement is for us – for our future – so that we can breathe free in an corruption free country with equal rights. Don’t let this euphoria die, that is what the culprits want, after all. Let us not sit back. India is on the verge of a revolution, let’s be a proud part of it. The least we can do is spread the word. Join the movement, use social networking, chain SMS and contribute to the change. Ask questions, until you get the desired answers.

Let’s be the change we wish to see in this world. And not let the efforts of this Gandhian go in vain.

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Enthusiasts recently got together to revive an art that Gujarat boasts of – Theatre. The day was 27th March that has been celebrated as the World Theatre Day since 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI).

In the olden days, theatre was the only source of entertainment for the rural public. A makeshift stage and a curtain, a couple of artists and the entire village would buzz with enthusiasm. While for the city audience, it always has been a curio. Today, the scenario has changed. People have become the slaves of other forms of media. To preserve the Gujarati theatre, we need to know how rich and varied its history in Gujarat has been.


The theatre art is more than 155 years old in Gujarat. The Gujarati play Rustom, Jabuli and Sorab, which is based on the popular dramatic tale of Shah Nama, is considered as the beginning of Gujarati theatre. It was staged at the Grant Road Theatre of Bombay on October 29, 1853.

The theatre did not have original plays needed to have an identity of its own. This compelled the famous Gujarati poet, Umashankar Joshi to make a scornful comment. In 1953, when the centenary of Gujarati theatre was celebrated, he said, “this is a wedding procession without the groom.”

There have been very less changes in the Gujarati theatre. However, the Parsi dramatic companies laid the modern Gujarati theatre’s foundation in the late 1980s. These theatre companies brought western techniques and themes as well as music to form a renewed vernacular theatre. In the modern Gujarati theatre, issues like bride price, witches, women’s health, alcoholism, vaccination etc. are raised.


Due to the onset of mainstream media like the television and films, theatre took a backseat. Few actors and fewer experiments take place in this form of art. Also, the performers who start out anxious to do something different lose no time in joining the mainstream at the first opportunity. The writers and directors associated with such movements do not happen to be so closely associated with theatre that they can be relied upon to continue to provide challenging plays.

A ray of hope in the dark future of the theatre art is the intercollegiate and other competitions. They have always been the source of emerging, new talents. The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Bombay) and the former Bombay State Competitions held between 1950 and 1960 provided the majority of the works that served as the foundations of the Gujarati theatre.


These competitions provided most of the projects to the professional Gujarati theatre. And many personalities were born out of such programs who infused life into the art. Pravin Joshi, Vijay Dutt and Kanti Madia were launched in the 1953 competition. In the same way, some of the intercollegiate competitions organized by the Indian National Theatre in 1975-78 gave break to the talents like Mahendra Joshi, Paresh Raval, Mukesh Raval, Siddharth Randeria, Homi Wadia, Sameer Khakhar, Nikita Shah, Sujata Mehta, Daisy Rani and Latesh Shah.
Competitions held in the late eighties and early nineties have produced Prakash Kapadia and Mihir Bhuta (writers), Rajesh Joshi (director), Piyush-Taufik (music directors), Manoj Joshi, Tushar Joshi, Jamnadas Majithia, Bakul Thakkar, Shefali Shetty and Sejal Shah (performers) who went on to prove their abilities on the professional stage.

Senior and popular artistes like Jaya Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha also ventured in the famous Gujarati theatre production house named the Sanjay Goradia Production.
The new Gujarati theatre has got some of the finest actors like Deena Gandhi-Pathak, Anasuya Sutaria, Nalini Mehta, Jashvant Thakkar, Dhananjay Thakkar, Krinalal, Khasrani, Kailash Pandya, Markand Bhatt, Urmila Bhatt, Pranasukh Nayak, Jyoti Vaidya and many others. One of the most versatile Gujarati actresses is Sarita Joshi, who has dominated the new Gujarati theatre for the longest time. One more talented Gujarati dancer and actress is Mallika Sarabhai, who made her name for the role of Draupadi in the world famous playwright Peter Brooke’s ‘Mahabharata’.

Among others, the audience has loved the performances of actors like Siddharth Randeria, Feroz Bhagat, Dilip Joshi, Tiku Talsania, Padmarani and Apara Mehta in the Gujarati theatres.


In the 21st century, films and TV have taken over the field of entertainment. But the Gujarati theatre has not lost its charm yet. Though the flow of the plays has slowed down and changes have to be made to match with the tastes of the audiences, the Gujarati theatre has survived along with the new style.

But not only have the sets, lights and other technical departments gone poor, but also the standard of direction and acting is quite low. The Government academies are indifferent to this matter. Also, the talented artists on the Gujarati stage are not willing to face strife in order to chase a vision of theatre for their artistic satisfaction.

So much is the strength of the Gujarati theatre that it is said that a Gujarati play named ‘Harishchandra’ influenced the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi very much.

The Gujarati theatre has inspired thinking of the people, created social awareness and national spirit during the pre-independence days. Gujarati people’s love to patronize their mother-tongue plays has marked the place of Gujarati theatre in the World theatres through its colorful representation of the plays. May this art see hundreds of such World Theatre Days!

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A timeline of the Godhra case: From February 26, 2002 to March 1, 2011

One of the most sensitive cases of Gujarat that led to unrest and tarnished the entire image that the state previously had – The Train Burning at Godhra. The incident shocked the Indian psyche and led to one of the worst communal riots India had seen unfold in Gujarat.

What actually happened? Why did the criminal justice system take nine long years to give its verdict? What happened in this time gap?


FEBRUARY 26, 2002

9 pm: A pre-plan was made to attack the Sabarmati Express at Room no. 8 of Aman Guest House at Signal Falia.

FEBRUARY 27, 2002

• 7-42 am: The train arrives at Godhra station.
• 7-42 to 7.47 am: During the five-minute halt, there is a scuffle between a Kar Sevak and a Muslim tea vendor.
• 7-47 am: The train starts from Godhra station, leaving some passengers on the platform.
• 7-48 to 8-00 am: There is stone-throwing and violence by the mob.
• 8-05 am: Train stops for the second time near Cabin ‘A’ of Godhra station.
• 8-05 to 8-17 am: A group of people comes running from the parcel office towards the train and there is more stone-throwing and violence. The coach is set on fire. The fire-tenders were stopped from reaching the spot.• 8-25 am: The police arrive and open fire to disperse the mob.
59 Kar Sevaks die after S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was torched. FIR was filed against 1500 people.

FEBRUARY 28 – MARCH 31, 2002

Communal violence erupts in various parts of Gujarat, killing over 1200 people.

MARCH 3, 2002

Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) invoked against those arrested for Godhra train burning case. (POTA was an Ordinance before becoming an Act)

MARCH 6, 2002

Gujarat government appoints a Commission under Commission of Inquiry Act to probe the Godhra incident headed by KG Shah to complete the report and submit within 3 months.

MARCH 9, 2002

Police include IPC section 120B (Criminal conspiracy) against all accused.

MARCH 25, 2002

POTO suspended on all accused.

MARCH 28, 2002

The Prevention of Terrorism Act replaced the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) 2001.

MAY 22, 2002

Retired Justice Nanavati was appointed as a part of the commission.

MAY 27, 2002

First charge-sheet filed against 54 accused.

FEBRUARY 18, 2003

POTA re-invoked against the accused.

NOVEMBER 21, 2003

Supreme Court stays judicial proceedings against all riot related cases including Godhra Train burning.


UC Banerjee heads a committee to probe into the train burning case after the then railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav asked for it.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2004

POTA repealed by UPA Government.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2004

As POTA has been repealed, there is a decision taken to review the POTA charges against the accused.

JANUARY 17, 2005

Justice UC Banerjee submits a report suggesting the fire in S-6 was an accident.

MAY 16, 2005

POTA Review committee gives its opinion not to charge accused under POTA given.

OCTOBER 13, 2006

Gujarat HC rules that the formation of UC Banerjee Committee was set up illegally, in violation of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 which prohibits the setting up of separate commissions by state and central governments to probe a matter of public importance.

MARCH 26, 2008

Supreme Court Constitutes Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate Godhra Train burning case and eight other post-Godhra riots.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2008

Nanavati Commission report submits its report on Godhra Train burning incident and says it was a pre-planned conspiracy.

FEBRUARY 12, 2009

Gujarat HC upholds POTA review committee decision that the act cannot be applied.

MAY 1, 2009

Supreme Court lifts the stay on Godhra train and all other cases after it finds SIT has made considerable progress.

JUNE 1, 2009

A fast track trial court starts the proceedings inside the Sabarmati jail premises.

MAY 6, 2010

Again, the Supreme Court restrains trial courts not to pronounce judgment in the train burning case and other riot cases.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2010

Trial concludes but no pronouncement of judgment due to stay by Supreme Court.

JANUARY 18, 2011

Supreme Court lifts the ban on pronouncement of verdict.

FEBRUARY 22, 2011

Trial Court Convicts 31 and acquits 63 others.

MARCH 1, 2011

11 people sentenced to death and 20 to life in prison.
In the meantime, 5 accused died and 8 were tried by a juvenile court as they were under-aged. 253 witnesses were examined and 1500 Documentary evidences were presented by Gujarat police to the court.


The ghastly calamity was brutal. It endangered the moral fabric of Gujarat. Just like one associates Gujarat with development and growth, Godhra is the darker side of it. Humanity, in general, was the sole sufferer.

The conspiracies and the bad intentions of the perpetrators will continue to succeed as long as we let them to continue. It is in our hands to restore faith, humanity and equality. Let us grow collectivity and give justice to our pledge – All Indians are my brothers and sisters!

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Gone are the days when women were no better than household cooks and nurses for the children. Today, they have reached heights and demand equal recognition and respect. The status of women has gone through ups and downs in India. But today, women adore the highest offices – just one example is the current President of India, Pratibha Patil.

Similar is the scenario in Gujarat. It is moving ahead in the direction of improving the quality of life of women, who do not enjoy the same privileges that some of their male counterparts on other parts of the world do. Women of Gujarat have achieved greatness in all walks of life, and proved beyond doubt that they can do anything men can do, and much more, but they have only been hardly visible and insufficiently recognized.

To mark the International Women’s Day, here’s a look at the women of Gujarat who broke the mould and are surely an inspiration.

It is said that ‘Behind every successful man, there is a woman’. So is the case with our Bapu – Gandhiji. Kasturba always stood beside Gandhiji, after they got married in an arranged child marriage, when she was just 13. She was illiterate, but learnt to read and write from Gandhiji. This was a potentially radical move, given the position of women in India at that time.

Kasturba was a very religious lady. She renounced all caste distinctions and lived in ashrams. She even joined Gandhiji in his protests for freedom of the country. Her loyalty was tested when in 1906, Gandhiji made up his mind to practice Brahmacharya. She stood by this decision, though she did not agree with some of the viewpoints of her husband.
Kasturba was born to a prosperous businessman Gokuldas Makharji of Porbander on April 11, 1869. She died of a heart attack on February 22, 1944.


The heart and soul of Gujarati Folk Music, Diwaliben belongs to Junagadh. She was discovered over thirty years ago at a local dance group by a leading folklorist and journalist, Jaimal Parmar. She is known for being one of the 25 celebrity singers for ‘Jityu Hamesha Gujarat’ – the Anthem of Gujarat.
A self-taught artiste, Diwaliben has performed all over the country and around the world. She has sung hundreds of Gujarati bhajans, garbas and folk songs. She also worked for Gujarati films as a singer. Diwaliben has received the prestigious Padmashree in 1990. For many years, in order to maintain a steady income she worked at a Prathmikshala. Her job consisted of gathering the children from surrounding homes and escorting them to the local school.

Elaben is one of the most remarkable forces for empowerment at the grass root level. She has dedicated her life for the development of women and improvement of the quality of life of India’s poor and most oppressed section of people. The soft voiced, simple, cotton-saree clad Elaben has been true to the spirit of her country and her inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi. She has followed his ideals all her life. Elaben pioneered the idea that people themselves, no matter how poor or uneducated, are able to solve their own problems if they organize together to do so. This idea took shape in the form of SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), which is one of the best grassroots programs for women in the world. She is the proud winner of many awards and heads many organizations.

Elaben broke away from the grip of an established mind-set and created her own paths and methods of organization. She has taken bold steps in a society where men ran the show.

Born in a well-educated, middle-class family on 7th September 1933, Elaben is based at Ahmedabad.


The dazzling Mallika is the daughter of the renowned Vikram and Mrinalini Sarabhai, born on 9th May 1953. A well-known activist and one of the leading choreographers, Mallika has her own dance academy named ‘Darpana’ based at Ahmedabad. She is an accomplished Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam dancer and is known for her contributions in the fields of theatre, television, film, writing and publishing.

Mallika started out when she was just 15. She played the role of ‘Draupadi’ in Peter Brook’s play ‘The Mahabharata’. In 1989, she created the first of her hard-hitting solo theatrical works, Shakti: The Power of Women. She has won many accolades during her long career, the Golden Star Award being one of them, which she won for the Best Dance Soloist, Theatre De Champs Elysees, Paris 1977. She was chosen from among 400 dancers from 25 countries.

Mallika is a representative of India for CIOFF (an internationally acclaimed organization for folk dances). Playing roles as diverse as a mother and a choreographer, and pursuing her interests like writing and social service, Mallika is known to put her best foot forward.

Apart from the above fields, on 19 March 2009, Mallika announced her candidature against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani for the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat, as an independent candidate. She eventually lost by a huge margin.

A renowned stage artist, Sarita Joshi is better known as ‘Baa’ in the super hit family entertainer ‘Baa Bahu Aur Baby’. She was born in Pune in 1940, but raised in Vadodara. She started her acting career with Gujarati theatre. She married actor-director-playwright Pravin Joshi and is the mother of Ketaki Dave and Purbi Joshi.

Sarita received international fame because of her role in Abhishek Bachhan starrer ‘Guru’ directed by the renowned filmmaker Mani Ratnam. She was also the central character in the film ‘Dasvidaniya’. Out of all the mediums, she holds a special corner for theatre and stage performances. She claims that the joy of performing on stage is always better than anything else and that it will be her first love.

In 1988, she was awarded with the Sangeet Natak Academy Award. She was also conferred with the Best Actress title in 2007 for her role in the TV soap.

It’s time to salute these women who moved out of their comfort zones as daughters, wives, mothers and sisters. But there are many others who are waiting to get the motivation, opportunity and strength. Women have changed and progressed to unbelievable heights, but one thing is clear – so much is still to change. Let’s pledge for a brighter future!

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Taking cue from the mobile number portability, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) has allowed policyholders to change their existing insurer and still carry forward the benefits of the old insurance. This means one need not stick to the current insurance provider and can shop around for cheaper plans and better services. The move came as a huge sigh of relief for the unhappy policyholders. The portability will apply to General and Life Insurance Companies.

The conditions state that all insurers will have to acknowledge a request to port the health insurance policy within three working days and make data on claim details available to the counterpart within seven working days.


• WAITING PERIOD FOR PRE-EXISTING DISEASES: The major factor that was preventing customers from transferring their health insurance policies to another company was the possibility of losing continuity of benefits such as cover for pre-existing diseases or illnesses. IRDA has ensured that insurers allow policyholders to transfer the credit in terms of waiting period for pre-existing illness and bonus sum insured from one insurer to another.

• INSURANCE AMOUNT: The accepting insurer shall provide cover, at least up to the sum assured in the previous insurance policy. Also, the sum insured that is carried forward will include the no-claim bonus that the previous insurer would have given.

• INITIAL WAIT TIME: The initial waiting period of around 30 days, which most insurers have, will also be waived off in case a customer decides to port policy. This makes the wait period a onetime affair.• LOCATION: The policyholders who shift from one country to another will also be benefitted due to this portability. Previously, they were put to disadvantage due to lack of their insurers’ offices at new locations. Now, they can simply shift to the insurer whose office is available at the location one is being transferred.


• FEATURES CANNOT BE TRANSFERRED: One cannot carry forward the features of the previous insurer, but only the credits on waiting period on pre-existing ailments.

• LACK OF CLARITY: There is not enough clarity on various issues like whether portability is possible between policies offered by life and non-life companies or indemnity policy.

• GROUP COVERS: There is no wait-time for group covers. Also, group insurance policies do not underwrite the individual but the organization as a whole; it will be difficult to port credits from group insurance policies to individual policies.

• PREMIUMS MAY REMAIN UNCHANGED: There is rise in claims, higher demand for health covers and medical inflation. So it may be very difficult on the part of the insurers to decrease the price of the policies: portability or no portability.

The move, however, ensures customer satisfaction, better services and product variations. It will also lead to competition among the insurance providers that can benefit the policyholders in the end. The directive to insurance companies to provide all records and claims history of the customer to the new insurance company will bring in more transparency. Critics, on the other hand believe that in the absence of standardization of products in India, the switching of insurers can lead to misunderstandings, frauds and misuses.

The portability is expected to increase the number of people to opt for health insurance. Only 2% of Indians currently have it, which constitutes only 20% of the overall insurance business. This is too low by the world standards. While the health insurance claims in India are extremely high as compared to other countries.

Currently, IRDA allows portability of motor insurance policies. For successful implementation of the health insurance portability, we still need to find an effective data sharing mechanism. IRDA has directed insurance companies to mention in the prospectus and sales literature that all health insurance policies are portable.

The main players in the health insurance industry viz. Star Health & Allied Insurance, Apollo MUNICH and Max BUPA, along with number of other players like National Insurance Company, United India, Oriental Insurance and ICICI Lombard are active in the field.

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Gujarat is known for its dynamism. It has always reflected growth that has filtered down through ages. The drive to be among the foremost states of India in all spheres of activities is infectious – and is representative of the state’s people as well as those in power. In a recent effort of change, the sphere was the Council of Ministers as the Chief Minister expanded his team. He also reshuffled the portfolios of some of the ministers.


A state is run by a Council of Ministers that includes the Chief Minister himself, a Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministers of State. The work distribution and department allocation is such that the Cabinet Ministers held a higher post while the Ministers of State support them as juniors.

This Council of Ministers of Gujarat inducted six new faces on 2nd February 2011, taking the Ministry’s total strength to 27. The newly welcomed ministers were given the ranks of junior ministers. This makes the Council of Ministers have 17 Cabinet Ministers and 10 Ministers of State. Apart from this induction, the portfolios of three ministers were reshuffled. Political think tanks believe that the CM took this step keeping an eye on the State Assembly elections that are scheduled in December 2012. It is also believed that this is an attempt to give adequate representation to the important social groups in the state.

The ministers were sworn in by Governor Dr. Kamala Beniwal at a simple ceremony on the lawns of Raj Bhavan. The exercise is expected to boost the morale of the ministers, as this is the largest cabinet size ever in Narendra Modi’s three terms as CM. In his second term in 2002, the cabinet size was restricted to just 17 ministers.
Also, this is the second cabinet expansion in six months and follows less than a week after Shri Modi inducted eight party men as chairmen of the state public sector boards and corporations.

Liladhar Vaghela Labor and Employment MLA from Deesa in Banaskantha
Ishwar Patel Sports, Youth, Cultural Affairs and Cooperation Legislator from Ankleshwar
Ranjit Gilatwala Cottage Industries and Planning & Stationery Surat (East)
Jitu Sukhadia Tourism, Food and Civil Supplies, Non Resident Gujaratis Sajyajiganj in Vadodara
Jaydrathsinh Parmar Road and Buildings MLA from Halol
Mohan Kundalia Rural Development MLA from Tankara in Rajkot

An effort to give equal representation is clearly visible as Liladhar Vaghela, Ishwar Patel and Ranjit Gilatwala are from communities belonging to the OBCs while Kundalia is a Patel from Saurashtra and Parmar is a Kshatriya from Central Gujarat.

Also, various regions of Gujarat are carefully included in this process of inclusive growth. Sukhadia and Parmar represent central Gujarat constituencies, Gilitwala and Ishwar Patel belong to South Gujarat, whereas North Gujarat has been represented by Vaghela, and Kundalia comes from the Saurashtra region.


The reshuffling of portfolios also took place. Minister of State Saurabh Patel, who earlier held civil aviation, cottage industries, salt industries, printing and stationery (independent charge), industries, mines, minerals, finance, energy and petrochemicals, now gives up cottage industries, salt industries, printing and stationery.

Minister of State Jashwant Bhabhor, who earlier held tribal development, rural development, labor and employment, has shed rural development, labor and employment. He has been allotted Panchayat and rural housing.

The third Minister of State Parbat Ahir, who had water supply, cooperation, health and family welfare in his portfolio, has given up cooperation.


Shri Narendra Modi is known to give pleasant surprises. The much-expected elevation of his ministerial confidante Anandiben Patel as Deputy Chief Minister did not take place. Also, the rumored change in the portfolios of the Senior Ministers did not happen, though the Ministers of State with multiple departments were divested of their charges. The departments handled by the Chief Minister remain unchanged. He is allocated:

• General Administration
• Planning
• Administrative Reforms & Training Division
• Home
• Industries
• Mines and Minerals
• Energy and Petrochemicals
• Ports
• Information and Broadcasting Media
• Narmada and Kalpsar Projects
• Science and Technology
• All Policies and Subjects & Matters Not Allotted to Other Ministers

The key to Gujarat’s growth is yet not clearly defined – is it this inclusive pattern of growth, is it the dynamism or is it simply Narendra Modi?

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The statement that spilled venom at a convention meant to create awareness and foster concern for homosexuality.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad: “The disease of Men Having Sex with Men (MSM), which was found more in the developed world, has now unfortunately come to our country and there are a substantial number of such people in India. Even though it (homosexuality among men) is unnatural, it exists in our country and is now fast spreading, making it tough for its detection. With relationships changing, men are having sex with men now. Though it is easy to find women sex workers and educate them on sex, it is a challenge to find MSMs.”

The Minister was addressing a national meeting on HIV/AIDS prevention on July 4. The AIDS convention, organized by a forum of parliamentarians, was also attended by PM Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Some Union ministers and chief ministers, besides members of Parliament and legislative assemblies, Zila Parishad chairpersons and mayors, apart from professionals working in the area also remained present.

The comment raised eyebrows and caused havoc in the country. Activists and other groups demanded apologies and some went to the extent of Azad’s resignation. Having foot in the mouth, the minister hastily called a press conference the next day. “Some people have played with the words. I have been quoted out of context,” he said. “My reference was to HIV as a disease. As health minister, I know (male homosexual sex) is not a disease.” Though, the video clips of Azad’s speech in Hindi kept ruling the Indian news channels.

Ghulam Nabi Azad has been in the news a few years ago for the late-night-TV-solution he offered to control population. “If there is electricity in every village, people will watch TV till late night and then fall asleep. They won’t get a chance to produce children. When there is no electricity, there is nothing else to do but produce babies.”


: Homosexuality is a form of mental illness and can be cured.
Fact: The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of official mental illnesses in 1973. The American Psychological Association followed suit in 1974. And so have most associations around the world.

 Homosexuality does not exist in nature and therefore it is not natural.
Fact: Historians tell us that homosexuality has existed since the earliest of human societies. Anthropologists report that homosexuals have been a part of every culture. It is also a well-known fact that same sex behavior is ‘natural’ between animals.

Myth: Sexual orientation is a choice.
Fact: Sexual Orientation is not a choice. It usually manifests itself in early adolescence prior to any sexual experience. What is choice is a person’s decision to act on their orientation or to deny and act against it. Doing the latter can create emotional problems later.

Homosexuality is a foreign concept.
Fact: We have the Kamasutra in India, which is a 2500-year-old sex guidebook. The book has a chapter exclusively on homosexuality. There are temples in Khajurao, Modhera, Patan, Dahod, Somnath etc with homosexual statues that were built even before the Muslims invaded India. We have Shikhandi in Mahabharata who was gay. Also, we have several gay characters in Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Indian epics. We have this concept ofArdhnareshwari (Half Shiva and half Parvati). We also have gay Gods and lesbian Goddesses in our Hindu mythology.


MOHNISH KABIR MALHOTRA, a publicist and gay rights activist

“I think the minister needs to apologize immediately. He has insulted the entire homosexual community. Homosexuality is very much a part of nature and it even finds references in religious texts. To call it unnatural is absurd.”

MARIO D’PENHA, a historian of the gay rights movement in South Asia

“To have such a level of bias and ignorance expressed in that context about something so basic is very dangerous. What is farcical, given his comments, is that he said the country needs more sex education. There are a lot of gay people in India who would like to give the minister an education.”

NANDITA DAS, actor-director

“I am appalled by the ignorance of the health minister. He is in a position of responsibility, and so his ignorance cannot be overlooked as it sends out wrong messages. In today’s day and age where same sex marriage is being legitimized around the world, and our own Delhi High Court has decriminalized homosexuality, I am amazed how ill informed and insensitive our minister is.”

ADITYA BONDYOPADHYAY, a lawyer and gay rights activist

“When a minister, and especially the health minister, says this in public, it conveys the impression that this is government policy, and that can have a huge impact on the lives of gay people who already struggle with official discrimination and police harassment. The religious right will jump on statements like this to increase the amount of hate.”


“Azad should apologize for discriminating against Indian citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation. There’s no scientific proof to justify his comments. I am surprised he made such a statement.”

VIKRAM BHATT, director-producer

“How can something that hundreds of people indulge in be unnatural? It could be unpopular for some, uninteresting for some and unbelievable for others. But unnatural? No chance!”


The biggest challenge to overcome the myths that prevail in the society is to create awareness. And comments like these from a person of such a stature, leads us nowhere. Marginalization of HIV/AIDS and homosexuality makes the issues isolated. This makes it harder to spread the awareness messages and create social acceptance. Even today, it is considered a taboo to belong to the homosexual community. In such times, the Health Minister should not have afforded to make such an irrational and unscientific statement.

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“They kept on pouring water into my nostrils until the water came out in my ears; it felt warm inside my ears. Then they stamped on both my thighs while two persons held my feet while another man sat on my head… They touched the wires’ ends to my chest and gave me shocks three times. Each time I felt as if my whole body had contracted… I keep remembering how they used to beat me and see everything that happened to me vividly.”
– 14-year-old child tortured by Indian soldiers in the Northeastern state of Manipur
(Witness statement of arrest and torture in Manipur cited in L.A. Pinto and N. Thockchom, Indigenous Children of North East India: the denial of childhood, Centre for Organization Research and Education, Imphal, Manipur, 2000)

This is just one incident that is expressed and recorded, just one among thousands. And this was not new for the region where such torture, encounters, murders and rapes were a regular affair. The people lived constantly under the shadow of the gun, under the shadow of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act).


The Indian states of the ‘seven sisters’ province are Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. These states were granted autonomy when the British left in 1947, but were merged with India two years later in a treaty. Many of the 38 million-strong population believe that this merger was forced upon their king. This led to freedom movements, further leading to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – the Indian Government’s attempt to regain control. The main aim of AFSPA was to counter the insurgency of opposition groups and to give immunity to the armed forces working in hostile environments.


The Armed Forces Special Powers Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament. A new ordinance was adopted by the Indian Government in May 1958, then endorsed by the Parliament in August 1958, and given presidential assent on September 11, 1958. It came onto the Statute Book as ‘The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.’
The AFSPA is a photocopy of the 1942 British ordinance intended to deal with the Indian independence movement (Quit India movement) during World War II. It was enacted as a short-term measure to allow the deployment of the army in India’s Northeastern Naga Hills. But since then, AFSPA has become a permanent act and exists for five decades.
States of Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland come under the act’s purview. Similar laws were also applied to counter militancy in Punjab from 1985 to 1994. Later in July 1990, the Act was extended to the Kashmir valley, when the insurgency was at its peak.


AFSPA gives the armed forces wide powers to shoot, to kill, arrest on insubstantial pretext, conduct warrantless searches and demolish structures in the name of ‘aiding civil power.’ Equipped with these special powers, soldiers have raped, tortured, ‘disappeared’ and killed Indian citizens without fear of being held accountable.
According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as ‘disturbed,’ an officer of the armed forces has powers to:

  • Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law against assembly of five or more persons or possession of deadly weapons
  • To arrest without a warrant and with the use of  necessary force anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so
  • To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests

It gives legal immunity to the Army officers for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under this law.


Instead of controlling the situation, AFSPA has over the years, made it more draconian and brutal. Some of the cases that have become known are just the tip of a huge iceberg.

Wee hours of July 11, 2004 and a 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama Devi was arrested without a warrant by the members of the 17th Assam Rifles from her residence. According to the Assam Rifles, she was a hardcore cadre of the proscribed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and one who had been involved in a series of IED blasts resulting in injury and deaths of many civilians and members of the security forces. (This was never proved as no arms were recovered and no proofs were gathered)
The young woman was allegedly tortured, raped and murdered. The next day her bullet-ridden body was recovered from a field near her home in Imphal, entirely bruised and torn apart with several gunshots, one piercing her private part. A cloth had been inserted at that place to stop the blood from oozing out. 

This shook entire India. On July 12, 2004, 32 local organizations came together in a conglomeration called Apunba Lup, to launch a movement to demand the AFSPA be repealed. But this was not enough. What followed, on July 15, 2004 was an iconic protest by the members of Meira Paibis group, a mass-based Meitei women’s human rights movement, who protested in front of the Kangla Fort, the then headquarters of the Assam Rifles. 12 women stripped with a banner which said, ‘Indian Army Rape us.’ While they cried aloud “We are the mothers and sisters of Manorama, rape us!” The rage and the agony were clearly visible on the women’s faces and the image of Manorama’s corpse filled in their eyes. This surreal ‘Naked Protest’ sunk in the hearts and minds of Indians and the Government and Armed Forces’ acts were stripped naked. The statement was so loud that it echoed and reverberated across the nation and the world as a whole.
A few days after Manorama’s murder, Pastor Jamkholet Khongsai was inhumanly murdered by the Assam Rifles in Manipur. When his body was dug out, innumerable boot marks were found on his chest.
A new, brave chapter in the history of AFSPA was written by a ‘Human Torch’. In a daring protest, Pebam Chittaranjan Mangang, advisor of Manipuri Students Federation attempted self-immolation at Bishnupur on August 15, 2004. He sprinkled himself with inflammable materials. After torching himself, Chittaranjan ran from the CI College complex to the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Bishnupur, about one and half kilometer from the college complex. He said in his final wriiten note “I have embraced death as the right choice for me and after a deep thinking I have decided to kill myself as a burning Human Torch and leave this world ahead of you all. Hundreds will come to follow me.”

  • Back in the 1960s, a girl named Chanu Rose was raped by the Army, who later committed suicide. Ever since then, there have been several incidents of molestation, rape and torture by Army men; even pregnant women were not spared.
  • Thousands of parents have gone insane as their children go ‘missing’, never to be seen again.

We are neither protecting militants nor fighting the security forces. Our only concern is the safety of our nation, our future. The struggle is to protect the people caught in the crossfire between militants and security forces.

The death of the core of all fundamental freedoms and human rights, the slaughter of justice, right to life leads to bereavement and the devil AFSPA reigns!

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