The Candid Eye

March 19, 2010

1000+ lives impacted through the ‘Model Village Development Project’

Shivaji Nagar is among a group of 40 villages located at about 20 km from Pune on the Pune-Bengaluru highway. Through their geographic proximity, the inhabitants of these villages have cultural and societal commonalities, as well as share some facilities for health and education. A majority of the inhabitants of these villages depend on agriculture as their sole source of income.

To enable the progress of the community there is a need to facilitate sustainable development on an infrastructural level, economically empower the youth and women of the villages and improve the quality of life of the inhabitants of the villages.

Art of Living Ashram - Bangalore

Sterlite is partnering with The Art of Living Foundation, in a project that spans 5 years to develop a Model Village that involves a 5H implementation – developing homes, building of facilities to promote hygiene, undertaking health awareness initiatives, instilling human values and facilitating harmony within the Model Village. Says Pravin Agrawal, Director – Sterlite Technologies, “Our objective is to give back to society in such a way that needs of the weaker sections are responded to and improvements made in the quality of their lives. All the projects we partner with, address the fundamental domains of environment, health and education.”

Since the initiation of the project in October 2009 Sterlite, The Art of Living Foundation and the youth of the villages worked cohesively and several schemes have already been successfully initiated:

Breath Water Sound Workshops

Village cleanliness campaign

Tree plantation drive

Empowerment of women through vocational training

Training program in Youth Leadership

Keeping in focus the aspects of safety and environment protection, a unique initiative was also undertaken at Shivaji Nagar, an electricity deprived village. The Art of Living Foundation worked in collaboration with Project Dharma to source and to facilitate the most suitable solar lighting solution for Shivaji Nagar. These solar lamps provided an eco-friendly, safe and convenient alternative to kerosene lamps.

According to Ankit Agarwal, co-founder, Project Dharma ‘We are proud to be associated with this great initiative of Art of Living and Sterlite Technologies, and are committed to providing livelihood creation and innovative solutions to villages across India’ Future schemes at Shivaji Nagar also include the development of public sanitation facilities and enhancement of education under the 5H implementation. The intrinsic involvement of the youth of the villages in the execution of the project has been a noteworthy aspect of the implementation methodology. This has helped create a sense of self-pride within the community, instilled human values and facilitated communal harmony within the villages.

To date, more than 1000 inhabitants of these villages have been benefited by the Model Village Development Project.

Source: Webnewswire

March 3, 2010

ISI protecting IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal in Karachi

The attempts by the Pune police probing the February 13 German Bakery blast to track Riyaz Bhatkal may prove futile, since there is confirmation now that the founder of the Indian Mujahideen is safely ensconed in Karachi.

A police officer from Hyderabad, who is currently interrogating Ahmed Khwaja, a Lashkar-e-Tayiba militant currently in custody of Hyderbad police, told that Bhatkal is in Karachi.

The official said that Khwaja was also questioned in-depth regarding the Pune blast, but he did not appear to know much about the plot.

Riyaz Bhatkal, the terrorist

“He has details of the Indian Mujahideen operatives and says that there are three key persons who control the IM. Bhatkal and Mohsin Chaudhary head the India operations, but they report directly to a man by the name Aamir Raza, who is a Pakistani national,” the officer said.

Khwaja also revealed that Bhatkal, who stayed in Dubai for a considerable amount of time, was asked to shift base to Pakistan at the insistence of the Inter Services Intelligence.

Indian Mujahideen

Bhatkal is a high-profile personality for them, and he is being protected by the ISI. Sources in the Intelligence Bureau told that Bhatkal holds the key, and nabbing him would help crack the entire IM network in India.

The IB further adds that they have got information that Bhatkal has been housed under the protection of the ISI at the high-security Defence Enclave in Karachi, which show his importance for the ISI..

Karachi plot

The IB says that the interrogation of Khwaja and Shahzad (who was picked up by the Delhi police from Azamgarh, UP in connection with the Batla House case) have made one thing clear and that is the ISI was not planning on launching attacks in India with its Pakistan and Afghanistan based cadres.

Both Shahzad and Khwaja were aware of the Karachi plot (IB had sounded off a warning pertaining to a terror plot that was being hatched in Pakistan to target several Indian cities), and during their interrogation, their bosses told them that they needed to gear up for this.

The IB says that this is a worrying factor since the ISI is roping in Indian operatives for this plot. They are setting up their network in India and most of the heads of the India-based terror groups have been told about this plot, so that when they plan on carrying out the attacks, there would be no problems with the logistics.

The ISI, which plans on carrying out the Karachi plot with the help of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Al Qaeda and the Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami, will depend on Indian operatives for logistics and also to ensure that they provide a safe passage into the country for their fidayeen fighters.

January 29, 2010

Hold on guys, help is here!!

Art of Living Foundation’s counselling helpline for youth and parents, which began operations last week, averaged 70 calls a day.

It was early afternoon on Friday when the phone rang for the first time at the Art of Living’s (AoL) Hopeline office in Camp. A young volunteer picked up the phone and heard a girl’s shaky voice.

Art of Lliving bangalore

“I need help,” said the 20-something on the other line and thus began the journey of Pune’s first 24-hour helpline.Alarmed by the rising number of student suicides and just days after foundation Chief Sri Sri Ravi Shankar left the city after public discourses, AoL Foundation started the helplines across three locations in the city.

“We receive an average of 70 calls daily. The callers are mostly youngsters seeking help for depression — sometimes with suicidal thoughts. Our job is to first listen to them, let them speak their heart out, relate to them and finally get them to come to us for counselling,” said Dinesh Ghodge, Director, World Alliance for Youth Empowerment, AoL.

Stress management

Besides offering temporary counselling through the helpline service, the foundation also offers various free courses for the youngsters on how to manage stress on a long-term basis.

“We convince them to come into our office, because that’s where the real counselling takes place. We integrate them into our free courses that prepares them to deal with situations on a long-term basis, so the question of calling a helpline or having suicidal thoughts doesn’t arise again,” said Pooja Tirke, teacher and volunteer at AoL Hopeline.

Until recently, Pune had only one helpline run by Connecting, an NGO that operated the service between 2 pm to 8 pm to handle callers with suicidal thoughts.

Source: Mid Day

January 18, 2010

Preserve Indianness, exhorts Sri Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Indian music and India’s heritage of Adhyatma are the two strong powers which will help us overcome all the strife around us and it is essential for us to preserve these and other strengths of Indianness in our fight against ill-will and hatred, said spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Tuesday.

Addressing thousands of his disciples at Antarnaad, a musical programme hosted by The Art of Living Foundation to mark the golden jubilee of Maharashtra, Sri Sri said Indian music has evolved entirely from the nature around us and thus has the basic power to sustain. Music is the route to achieve oneness with the God, he said.

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishankar

The sprawling S P College ground came alive with simple yet graceful decoration where Sri Sri’s disciples and followers filled the air with calls of ‘jai gurudev’ and listened to him all ears as he spelt out his mantra for a stress-free, peaceful living. There were men, women and children eager to get a piece of wisdom of their beloved Guru, who treated them through a session of dhyaan (concentration), gyaan (wisdom) and gaan (music).

Sri Sri stressed the need to protect everything created by nature if India had to lead the mission of world peace and added that the original principles of living, such as nature-based farming (as against farming that uses chemical fertilisers), caring for the girl child and keeping the honour of woman, will guide in the process.

Sri Sri said mediation is not superstition, but can be pursued while maintaining a scientific mindset. “I am not preaching an insipid, dry lifestyle but want all of us to enjoy life in all its beauty and listen to the music of the soul, unblemished by hatred or jealousy,” he said.

“Haath baantke to dekho, kaam banta hai ki nahin; muskarake to dekho, duniya apnaati hai ya nahin (extend a helping hand and the task will become simpler; offer a smile and the world will accept you in all its generosity),” Sri Sri appealed, stressing the importance of smile and brotherhood in life.

More than 2,750 singers from all parts of the country and abroad — perched on a grand multi-level stage — sang in unison musical compositions set to ragas such as ‘Shankara’, ‘Shree’ and ‘Basant Bahar’ as the voice of the audience blended itself with the artistes. The singers, men and women uniformly dressed in white kurta-pyjama and off-white sarees, were a picture of bhakti (devotion) and shraddha (dedication) as they presented the well-rehearsed compositions.

Renowned musicians, including singers Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Shankar Mahadevan and Chitra Roy, as well as tabla maestro Arvind Kumar Azad led the presentation of the compositions. The programme is set to find an entry in the Guinness Book of Records, the organisers said.

Members of the state cabinet, including deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Harshwardhan Patil, were present for the function along with MPs Suresh Kalmadi, Shivajirao Adhalrao and Gopinath Munde. Shashi Vyas and Kathak dancer Sharvari Jamenis compered the programme adding value to the musical experience.

Source: TOI

December 29, 2009

Art of Living ‘transforms’ juvenile delinquents

A group of volunteers of a spiritual organisation founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living, has succeeded in transforming the juvenile delinquents at the Boys’ Observation Home in Shivajinagar, Pune.

Though the NGO had organised its Bal Chetna and Nav Chetna courses for these children earlier, they did not have much impact. “Merely conducting the workshops was not enough. We then decided to start daily follow-ups, as suggested by the authorities,” said Nitin Pradhan, a coordinator of the group.

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishankar

“These children used to have violent fights, and at least 3-4 boys would escape from the home each month. They were always on the lookout for an opportunity to run away,” said MN Sonawane, superintendent of the observation home.

The results started becoming apparent four months ago when the teenagers, 46 of them, attended the Nav Chetna course. They were taught ramdhyan, pranayam and satsang. “Earlier, it was impossible to control these children. They used to become restless and would constantly fight among themselves. But we worked hard for two months. Their warden, who used to stand in the hall with a cane in her hand, did not require it after a couple of weeks,” said Pradhan.

Such has been the transformation that the children now look forward to the daily dhyan and satsang. “The running away stopped completely in October. They have become quieter and observe the daily routine with discipline. They have developed a bond with the volunteers as they feel cared for. The effectiveness of these workshops will be further proved once we rehabilitate them back into the society. We conduct various short-term courses like candle, paper bag, and chalk-making for them. One volunteer suggested that they should be trained as plumbers and electricians. We are considering the suggestion,” said Sonawane.

Their rehabilitation of these kids is essential because they tend to fall back into bad company. They also involve other youngsters from their area in criminal activities. This will stop if they start earning and realising the benefits of a positive way of life, Sonawane said. The observation home is now in talks with another NGO, which imparts vocational training for free to children from weaker sections of society.

Encouraged by the results, the Yerawada Boys’ Observation Home, which was in the news recently as the children had escaped in hordes from there, has also invited the AOL volunteers to conduct these courses at their home.

September 10, 2009

The Royal Descendents

In Bollywood, the son of the actor becomes and actor. So also the actresses. Doctors, lawyers, engineers grow similar to their parents. We hear so much about Nehru-Gandhi family. What’s happening about the Royal Descendents of Marathas and alike? The great worriors who served the country with their blood, where are their descendents today?

Check out these articles from Open Magazine:-

Shivaji’s Descendent, Udayanraje

Mahendra Peshawa

While Udayanraje feels little bit stifled in the responsibilities of the lineage, Mahendra struggles financially, still feels the pride for being descendant of Bajirao Peshwa.

descendent-of-peshwaHere is what Mahendra has to say:

“I may be a Peshwa descendant, but does it really mean anything in 2009? When a traffic policeman stops me today and checks my driving licence, he does not even raise an eyebrow. The name Peshwa means nothing to him. He couldn’t care less. And this, in Pune, a city from where my forefathers ruled large parts of India for nearly a hundred years.

Why just the policeman. I am a non-entity even at the Parvati hill temple, which houses the family’s Lord Shiva deity. I am not allowed to enter the sanctum to perform a puja, despite the temple being run by the Dev Deveshwar Sansthan trust started by Nanasaheb Peshwa, my forefather in 1749. Today, none of my family members is on the five-man committee and this prevents us from performing even a puja.

We have filed a case with the Charity Commissioner in Pune in 2001 demanding permanent places for at least two Peshwas on the committee, given the history of the trust. However, as is typical in India, no decision has been forthcoming from the commissioner for eight long years.

It is a well-documented fact that as the Peshwas battled the British tooth and nail, the British confiscated and destroyed all the Peshwa property in Pune, except the Parvati hill temple run by the Dev Deveshwar Sansthan.

Presently, the only property that our family owns is in far away Varanasi, where we have two small ghats and two temples, one dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to Lord Ganesha. These temples and ghats were built by another of my forefathers, Amrutrao Peshwa, brother of Bajirao Peshwa II in 1807. I  go on an annual pilgrimage to Varanasi every winter. It is the best time of the year to visit, as the weather is cool.

Presently, my father and his brother, as direct descendants of the Peshwas get a pension of Rs 13,360 per annum each from the Government of India treasury in Allahabad. This amount is the interest calculated at 4 per cent on the promissory notes deposited by the Peshwas with the British in 1855.

According to my father, Krishnarao, the British confiscated 90 per cent of the promissory notes and all the gems and jewellery belonging to the Peshwas in 1855. We have been requesting the government to release the balance amount in the treasury or at least increase the rate of interest, but our requests have fallen on deaf ears so far.

However, in spite of all this, I am proud to be a Peshwa. Our forefathers ruled large parts of the country and it feels special to be part of a clan with so much history.

Today, I live in a modest apartment in the Karvenagar area of Pune with my wife and teenaged, college-going daughter. No luxury and riches for us. I ride an old scooter and when the family has to go out together, I use my father’s old, beat-up Maruti Suzuki 800 car. I also personally shop for vegetables, milk, bread and groceries every day.

In any case, there is nothing amiss here. The Peshwas themselves were never given to creature comforts. While Bajirao Peshwa I, did construct the Shaniwar wada, home and headquarters of the Peshwas in central Pune, not many Peshwas managed to enjoy its comforts. Least of all Bajirao Peshwa I himself. It is a well-known fact that Bajirao I,  was more on horseback fighting the enemy than relaxing at his home in Pune. Ditto with a majority of Peshwas who were always on the battlefield, fighting the enemy. Don’t forget that the Peshwa army actually went past Attock in present-day Pakistan.

I work as an engineering consultant and am an expert on special purpose machines. In all probability, you will find me rushing from one shop floor to the other on any given day, trying to attend to my clients’ complaints. Like the Peshwas of yore, no creature comforts for me, thank you. The only problem is that my clients and customers assume that I am a rich man and often tease me, saying, “You are a Peshwa, why do you need the money?”

As a child, I grew up on a diet of tales depicting Peshwa Bajirao I’s courage and valour. So quite naturally, he is my hero. Within a short span of just 20 years, he managed to take Shivaji’s concept of Swarajya ( freedom) and convert it to Samrajya (empire). Bajirao I, was the first Peshwa to take the Maratha army past Delhi and bring almost 70 per cent of India under Maharashtrian rule. He is also the only Peshwa to have never lost a battle.
Just how astute Bajirao was, can be gleaned from the manner in which he convincingly outwitted the Nizam of Hyderabad in the battle of Palkhed. A master strategist, Bajirao, with far less manpower and resources than the Nizam, managed to surround the Hyderabad ruler so completely, that the Hyderabadi ruler was forced to surrender without a drop of blood being shed.

I did my initial schooling in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, a cantonment town where we had several friends in both the army and the air force. Coming from the Peshwa family, it was natural for me to be attracted to a career in the armed forces. I was a sergeant in the junior National Cadet Corps (NCC) in my military school in Pune, where I was adept at horse riding and shooting.

However, certain family circumstances prevented me from actually taking up a career in the armed forces after I completed school. I regret that even today. So much so, that if given even half a chance today, I would join the army in a flash.

The present state of Indian politics is simply revolting. I don’t like the manner in which this country is being run. If Bajirao I were to visit Pune today, he would have been appalled by the traffic congestion and the utter lack of town planning. He would also be aghast at the countless loopholes that exist in our policing system. Successive Peshwas, starting with him, had put in place a well worked-out system and plan for Pune.

He would have also been hurt by the class divide that exists in Maharashtra between the Brahmins and Marathas today, created by modern day politicians. In his time, the Peshwa army was not just made up of Marathas, Muslims were also part of it.

The class divide has reached such ridiculous proportions now that when present-day Maharashtrian politicians make speeches, they fast-forward directly from the era of Chhatrapati Shivaji to that of Mahatma Phule, as if the 100-year reign by the Brahmin Peshwas never even happened. Isn’t that downright ridiculous?

I was never really attracted to politics and hence, have never harboured any personal political ambitions. However, among the many political parties in India, I would be more inclined to vote for the BJP.

Nowadays, I get true solace whenever I visit the Shaniwar wada with friends and family for the ‘sound and light’ show depicting the history of the wada and the life of the Peshwas. It leaves me with a lump in the throat every single time. Much like watching the Republic Day parade in New Delhi.”

August 26, 2009

It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu: Francois Gautier


NEW YORK: Noted French journalist and writer Francois Gautier who has made India his home and propagation of Hinduism his cause and mission for over three decades, is currently traveling across the US to raise funds through his foundation, FACT-India, for the setting up of an Indian history museum in Pune, India.

Gautier, perhaps one of the very few Westerners to have unconditionally adopted a Hindu way of life, feels the widely prevalent distorted image of Indian history as propagated by the British, Christian missionaries, communists and the western world in general for over two centuries, has necessitated the museum to portray Hindu civilization in the right light.
In an interview with India Post during his visit to New York last week, Gautier spoke about his ambitious museum project, the many threats to Hinduism in today’s world and how Hindus can gain the respect of the world.

IP: Can you tell us about the Museum of Indian History?
I have been donated some land in Pune by a private trust where I want to build the museum to be called the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History.
I see in India there are no museums of Indian history worth the name. So the idea is to start from the Vedas, go on to talk about the greatness of the whole of India and the entire drama of the invasions through history, the Hindu holocaust, and then portray India of today and tomorrow.

IP: What kind of funds do you need and how long will it take to complete the museum?
It’s a huge project but definitely it will happen. It’s about $40m dollars, and I don’t know how long it will take — perhaps 10-20 years, because I don’t have the money right away. But I am ready to start, once I start, the donations will come and people will understand the importance of this museum.

IP: Why is it important to have such a museum?
As a journalist and writer, when I started documenting for my book, I realized that most history books on India are based upon very old theories considered defunct or debatable such as the Aryan invasion theory, which evidence shows has never taken place.

Both British historians and later Nehruvian historians have toned down the considerable impact on Indian culture of the invasions starting from Alexander the Great to the Arabs, the Muslim invaders and the British — that entire part of the history has been swept under the carpet. And even later, the history of India’s Independence is very unfairly portrayed.
The need of the museum is very important so we can look at India’s history in a very scientific manner, which is what my organization FACT India is doing.

IP: Will the museum focus only on the Hindu history of India?
The museum will also broach upon many of India’s dark periods in its history like the inquisition in Goa by the Portuguese, the Sufi persecution, the Ahmedi Muslim persecution in Bangladesh, how the Buddhist history was wiped out and how some of the early Syrian Christians of Kerala were persecuted. And of course the Hindu holocaust right from Hindu Kush (massacre of Hindus) to the current terrorist activities against them.
I want school children to come to the museum and learn of their own culture and be proud. Kids in Indian schools are learning about Shakespeare and Milton, not about their Hindu or Indian culture. In my country we are taught about great French people like our poets, social reformers, artists etc… so I grew up proud of my culture, but Indian kids do not grow up learning about or feeling proud of their culture.

IP: Do you see any kind of opposition to your project from either the government or any section of the Indian society?
Of course there’s bound to be some opposition, you can’t make everybody happy. But one has to go by the truth. Whatever one’s limitations, if backed by truth, even if it is opposed, there will be some kind of direction and protection.

In fact, there are three reasons for setting up the museum in Pune: One– of course the land donated is in Pune; second– since I work in Pune, I found that people of Pune, irrespective of their political affiliations, are quite nationalistic in nature. I feel my museum will be more protected in Pune than anywhere else in India; thirdly– Pune is Shivaji’s birth place. There is no museum of Shivaji anywhere in Maharashtra though he is a true hero. So naming it after Shivaji will be a protection for this museum.

IP: Over the many years of your career, how successful have you been in changing western perceptions of Hinduism?
It’s a very difficult task, because unfortunately the image of Hinduism is not that good. But, there is more ignorance than hostility. Westerners do not know that it is a monotheistic religion. Secondly, Hindus, especially Brahmins have been at the receiving end of many like the British, the missionaries, the Islamic invaders all of who created a very negative image of Hinduism — particularly the missionaries emphasized only the negative sides of Hinduism and amplified them a thousand times. Today we still find that even after 200 years, these negative images have survived even in the minds of Hindus in India.

Unfortunately it is a great handicap for journalists like me who like Hinduism and want to defend it. I can’t say I have been very successful, but at least now westerners are open to going to India and understanding Hindus.

There are so many good things to be said for Hinduism, but unfortunately there is no will among Hindus to try to explain to westerners. Hindus are just content to come to the West and melt into local cultures or at best keep their spirituality and religion to themselves.

IP: What do you think of the role of the Indian intellectual elite and media in projecting the image of Hindus?
The British have left such a mark on the minds of much of Indian intelligentsia and elite, right from the erstwhile Maharajas who have copied the British way of life that it has left a deep impression on generations after that. Today Indians think that everything that comes from the West is good. It’s very stupid, because many things in the West have failed like family values etc.

This generation of Indian intelligentsia is aping Marxism so brilliantly, which is dead even in Russia, and is probably only left in Cuba, but I don’t see why Indians should copy Cuba (laughs).

Look at the Chinese, they are so proud of their culture; nobody dares to fiddle with them, even America will not dare to interfere with their affairs.

IP: Many Hindus fear the very survival of Hinduism in the face of Islamic fundamentalism. How real are their fears?
The fear is very real. I see there are five or six enemies that may be covertly or overtly attacking Hinduism. In the past there was any one threat at a time like the Greek, British or Muslim invasions. But today, there are the threats of Muslim fundamentalism, Christian conversions, Marxist onslaught, Westernization and so on which are eroding the Indian culture all at the same time. However, there are many great gurus today like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and others who are repackaging the Hindu tenets like spirituality. pranayama, yoga, ayurveda etc for everyone’s easy consumption while not associating them with Hinduism. Though I do not agree with that, it’s an important movement today and helping to preserve that culture.

It’s true that Hinduism is under attack and it looks frightening at times. That’s why the museum is so important.

IP: Have you ever felt conflicted about the culture you were born into and the one you adopted?
Personally I have never felt conflicted, but people of my country often do not understand why I defend the Hindus– that has been a bit of a problem. Though my country is sympathetic to India, when you touch the intellectual layer – people who are fed on the Nehruvian history and the downgrading of Hindu culture, I have come into conflict sometimes with these people. But for me living in India is a protection; people often appreciate the work I do. Some of my friends do not understand why I poke the dangerous Islamic fundamentalism by defending Hindus. I started speaking about it (Islamic fundamentalism) 20-25 years ago when it was not at all politically correct to speak about it. Even those friends who like me sometimes do not really understand me. I have faced a lot of hostility also.

IP: What can Hindus living in America do to preserve their culture?
For Hindus living in the US, whether fist or second generation, it is important that they carry their Hinduness. It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu, because you inherit the knowledge which is very ancient and very practical. Also the many Hindu groups which are scattered should unite to become a lobby like the Jews. They should teach their children to be proud of being Hindu while being faithful to their Americanness. They should create a lobby in the US to be able to influence South Asia policy at the administration level and see that it does not cap India’s nuclear policy.

IP: Is there something that really frustrates you?
Hindus don’t think big. Most Hindu movements in the US have mostly people without a vision, they don’t unite; it’s very frustrating. When I last visited the US in 2002, the Hindu community was more vibrant, today I find many of the Hindu leaders of that time burnt out or taken a back seat or gone back into mainstream life; that is saddening. If only Hindus knew their own power — there are one billion in the world — Islam is conscious of its might and its numbers; Christianity though on the decline, is conscious of its greatness in terms of technology and power. Hindus, who are not all that small in number, have to use more muscle. Meekness and submissiveness will not take them far, they have to show muscle power. That’s the way to get respect in the world.

India Post News Service

Original Article.

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