Monday, March 30, 2009


Pakistani security forces deployed at the site of a police training center in Lahore on March 30, 2009. Police and security forces arrested a suspect allegedly linked to a group of attackers who besieged a police academy where 25 people died during pitched battles, police said. AFP PHOTO/ Aamir QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani security officials arrest a suspected militant (R) near the site of a police training center in Lahore on March 30, 2009. Police and security forces arrested a suspect allegedly linked to a group of attackers who besieged a police academy where 20 people died during pitched battles, police said. AFP PHOTO/Sameed QURESHI (Photo credit should read SAMEED QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Indo-Pak border was on heightened alert following the chartered terrorist attack on Police Training Center PTC at Manawa just 12Kms from the border .
The attack by suspected foreign elements along with local youth has triggered off alarm bells in Delhi over the proximity of the Taliban alleged to be behind the attack to Indian territory .
Meanwhile, the death toll in the attack has risen to 25 and more than 90 police personnel have been injured so far. As many as 350-400 were held hostage in the PTC following this early morning attack about 7.30 Pakistan time. Till the time of filing of this report the 2211 rescue operation squad was tackling the situation as also other para troops and pak army was called out for reinforcements.
Manawa where the PTC is located is on the East of Lahore and just 12Kms from the village of Wagah on the Pakistan side that is adjoining the Indian township of Attari in Amritsar.
Although BSF DIG Mohammed Aquil said the Indo Pak border has been on high alert ever since 26/11 the Mumbai terrorist attack and more so now following announcement of Parliamentary Elections in India . However the unfolding terrorist attack so close to the border is cause for deep security concerns . Although he denied that the Indian army has taken active war positions along the border he said only the coming days would give concrete answers .
Meanwhile according to ANI Pakistan has pointed towards a probable foreign involvement in the attack on the police training camp in Lahore earlier today.
Pakistan Prime Minister's Advisor on Interior Affairs, Rehman Malik said the attack has been carried out by the jihadi outfits and a foreign hand could not be ruled out.
"Today's incident is part of terror wave exists in the country which begun from NWFP. This is an attack against country's sovereignty," The News quoted Rehman, as saying.
Rehman said that the attack was well planned and organized and it appears that the attackers were during the Afghan jihad.
He confirmed that at least ten militants were still present inside the police training facility.
Images of a suspected militant being nabbed by the security forces also appeared on government television, but there is no official confirmation about the report. According to unconfirmed reports the apprehended terrorist is a Afghan national .
Curfew has been imposed in Manawan in Lahore with the pitched battle between the terrorists and commandos of Pakistan Army, Rangers still going on

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Lahorites take to the streets for ‘change’ photo courtesy THE LITTLE MAN HAS WON --PAKISTAN -LAHORE
The chaos that gripped Pakistan this week was an important step on the road to democracy
By Farouk Rana, Citizen Special

Russian scholar Yuri Gankovsky believed that there are four nationalities in Pakistan: the Punjabi, Sindhi, Pakhtun, and Baluchi. In a conversation with me in 1989, when I was posted in Moscow, he laughingly dismissed the official point of view that there was one Pakistani nation united by the bonds of Islam and the glue of the national language, Urdu: "You and your four provinces have nothing in common besides a fondness for cricket."
If Gankovsky was alive today, I would have told him that as it turns out, we also share a commitment to an independent judiciary, and by agreeing on the need for this fundamental value, i.e., the rule of law, we are closer to becoming a united nation despite our disparate ethnicities. That is the true significance of the victory of the lawyers' movement for the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
It needs to be recalled that Justice Chaudhry was unconstitutionally dismissed by Gen. Musharraf in 2007 because of:
a) his proactive stance on human rights issues and his insistence that the Interior Ministry produce 60-odd "missing persons" -- persons who were being kept in secret custody without being charged or tried in a court of law;
b) his insistence on transparency regarding the privatization of national assets and his blocking of the sale of Pakistan Steel Mill; and
c) Gen. Musharraf's apprehension that the chief justice would question the legality of his election as president by a parliament whose term was expiring in a few weeks time.
Despite repeated promises, the current Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government led by President Asif Ali Zardari procrastinated on the issue of the reinstatement of the chief justice.
The popular perception is that Zardari feared that if reinstated, Iftikhar Chaudhry will declare unconstitutional the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) promulgated by Gen. Musharraf which resulted in the withdrawal of corruption cases against Zardari. Zardari has also not initiated any steps toward surrendering his presidential powers to dismiss the Parliament and send the elected prime minister packing home.
And it was his hand-picked judges in the Supreme Court who disqualified the Sharif Brothers, Nawaz and Shehbaz, from holding any public office, thus precipitating a political crisis in Punjab which led to the dislodging of Shehbaz Sharif from premiership and imposition of Governor's Rule. The question everyone was asking: How is Zardari any different from Musharraf?
The lawyers had no choice but to announce the "long march" on Islamabad. The march was joined not only by opposition parties, but also by young middle-class professionals belonging to no particular party -- the YouTube Generation of Pakistan who have shaken off their apathy and indifference and risen up in defiance to say "No, you cannot."
The primary motivation for the young and restless to join the march was the fact that if the chief justice of the Supreme Court was not immune from being summarily thrown out of his office, manhandled by the police, put under house arrest and shamelessly maligned in a web of manufactured scandals by the officially inspired image goons, then what protection do the little people have? In fact, what protection does anyone have?
Despite the declaration by the prime minister that the protest march was the democratic right of the opposition and will be allowed to proceed, roads to Islamabad were blocked with thousands of steel containers on the orders of President Zardari and the police force deployed to arrest its leaders and disperse the march. Curbs were also placed on the popular GEO television's reporting of the unfolding events and its bold criticism of Zardari for reneging on his written agreements with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif regarding the Charter of Democracy.
Zardari's heavy-handedness led to vocal criticism from within his ruling party. His Information Minister, Sherry Rehman, resigned in protest.
The situation started to spin out of control when many police officers refused to carry out the "illegal" orders of the governor and higher-ups.
Rumours are afloat that field commanders in the army too had indicated their distaste, if not their unwillingness, for getting embroiled in a situation where they would be pitched against their own countrymen.
And so Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani took matters in his own hands and announced on television not only the restoration of the judiciary but also the government's willingness to sort out the modalities for the implementation of other components of the Charter of Democracy agreed upon and signed by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in London in 2006. Zardari was nowhere to be seen. The little man has won. And this feeling is priceless.
Of course impediments remain. If Zardari's hand-picked replacement judges -- inducted into the courts over the last few months despite their questionable merits and qualifications -- are allowed to remain, then with Musharraf loyalists they will overwhelm and perhaps even neutralize Justice Chaudhry and his reinstated colleagues. This anomaly needs to be corrected.
The restoration of the 1973 Constitution and getting rid of the distortions introduced by Gen. Zia ul-Haq and Gen. Musharraf to increase the power of the presidency also needs to be realized. Until that happens, the bona-fides of President Zardari will remain suspect and will continue to cloud the political horizon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Friday, March 24, 2009

Bhai Salo was a "Sewak"(in service of the Guru) of Guru Arjan Dev. His duty was to collect wood from the jungle for 'Langar' (Community Kitchen).
Once in the early morning hours while returning from the jungle he falls into the deep well. The news spreads like wildfire and Guru Arjan dev and others reached the well.
A Rope is thrown inside the well to help Bhai Salo to come out. But Bhai Salo first tied the wood which he collected from the jungle and afterwards helped himself to come out of the deep well with the help of the rope.
He was asked why he first tied wood instead of helping himself to come out, Bhai Salo replied -SEVA- or Service towards community –is the most important. On hearing this, he was blessed by Guru Arjan Dev. The Guru declared to devotees that whoever visits his place, has to visit Bhai Salo's Place for fulfillment of his 'pilgrimage'. The Guru also is known to have said that wishes of prosperity in family would be fulfilled of whosoever visits the place of Bhai Salo to offer prayers. It is popularly believed that if a holy dip is taken on 'five' Sundays consecutively in the holy pond at Gurdwara Bhai Salo, the wishes of the person are fulfilled. Sunday is also fixed for 'Langar'. Close to Kesar Dhaba the Gurdwara is a must visit if touring Amritsar.


Rode Village (Amritsar) March 2009
In Rome --Bacchus the God of Wine may have countless lovers, bedfellows and followers through the ages, but nothing could quite beat his craziest fans …in a tiny hamlet of India. As spring arrives, 'Bhoma' also Popularly referred to as Baba Rode village, just 20 Kms from Amritsar in Punjab prepares for its annual cocktail. With huge drums some even fitted with indigenous taps and stirring ladles, to be filled with the fiery liquid to be poured in steel glasses for devotees.
Strange as it may sound, liquor finds its way as a holy offering at the 'Samadh' or 'Mazar' (tomb) of Baba Rode Shah in this tiny village. Not only, is it the only offering acceptable at the shrine but is also given as ‘Parsad’ (return offering) to devotees.
It is one of the strangest sights in the world perhaps, to watch women, children, share glasses of spirit with men in their sozzel-ed worst in a 3-day soiree from March 22 , during the Baba Rode Shah Mela (fair), as guzzlers are consumed by the spirited cocktail.
While consuming liquor is considered the ultimate sin in some religions, it hardly finds any respect in societal acceptance due to Health Issues, but flows in merriment at Mehfils, pubs, clubs or fashion parties and Page 3 dos.
However undeterred by its notoriety, the liquor has found an iota of acceptance and even 'reverence' during the 3–days of its unabated flow in "holy -glory".
Lakhs visit the tomb during the fair while hundreds of thousands throng the site even before the start of the 3-day "Binging" on alcohol. Devotees at Mela flock for an ardent Wish or at Wish-fulfillment in a gesture of Thanksgiving …carrying …lo & behold !!…bottles of the finest wines and whiskies or even pouches, polythene bags- shopper bags, buckets, cans filled with even country brewed liquor, that find their way into a mixing drum, as holy offering.
All the liquor offering is then mixed in a container, irrespective of its foreign origin, kind, expense or emergence-- into a heady potion and distributed as ‘Prasad’.
Mind you! No policewalla dare stop or cause any inconvenience during the drinking revelry that follows, for fear of incurring the wrath of the holy ‘Baba’.
People having faith in Baba Rode are seen offering prayers for jobs, resolving legal and court cases, marital happiness, to have a child, wishing to go abroad, find a seat in an institution and many weird wishes to come true.
The scene near the Samadh is seen to be believed with homo sapiens strewn around the place as if a great battle has taken place.
Devotees report that the stink of liquor can be felt from miles. It is the only time when a tiny tot boy or girl will call cheers with their father …although not so blatantly.
This time, amongst liquor revellers and drummers who played the drums at the mela the catchy Punjabi Pop Number by Hard Kaur ..."Ek Galasi, Do Galasi, Teen Galasi CHAR..." found some crazy puppets and rag-doll dancing by devotees swinging limbs in all four directions in wild abandon, while less sozzeled --laughed and laughed holding their stomachs in pain before joining the weird groups .
Along with this mumbo-jumbo dancing, Devotees get to enjoy some of the choicest and mouthwatering roadside delicacies during the ‘pilgrimage’ , with the likes of chicken Tandoori, fish Amritsari and Mutton Tikkas Stalls --.The most delicious and famous cuisines of this entire region crop along roadsides, during the festivities.
Though rationalists pooh-pooh the claims of miracle cures at the shrine, the Mela at the tomb of Baba Rode draws a big crowd.
Interestingly, it is a little kept secret that some leaders from various political hues too are ardent followers of the Bacchus –Baba

Legend has it that Baba Rode, the son of Sham Singh, a farmer, belonged to a Jat Sikh family and was a “teetotaler”.
The ancestral village of Baba Rode was Dhiman (Damodar) in border area of Gurdaspur district.
It is believed that Baba Rode moved to a village near Bhoma in 1896 and lived on the outskirts. His sister was married in this village.
People believe Baba Rode started blessing to help people in distress.
It is believed that once a devotee of Baba Rode offered him liquor in gratitude for a wish fulfilled and the Baba who distributed all offerings to his disciples also distributed the liquor offering among his disciples.
Later, this became a big tradition though Baba Rode died in 1924.
To the delight of villagers here, the tradition is still alive where drinking is considered ‘macho’ among men , after the hardworking Punjabi farmer turned into Landlords, lording over the migratory labor from poor states of Bihar and Orissa, who toiled in the fertile soil of the region to make the Punjabi farmer prosperous.
The once hardworking Punjabi farmer became lazy and fell into “aiyashis” of all kind including consuming liquor in groups in the evening. For these villagers at daily 'Mehfils' .....Baba Rode Shah’s Mela is indeed ‘Godsend’ having holy blessings to match!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dhol Jageero da…Amritsar girls done it …

Dhol Jageero da…Amritsar girls done it …
Rashmi Talwar
With Punjabi girls taking to playing the traditional "dhol", yet another male bastion seems to have crumbled !
Apart from "dhol", girls in Amritsar are increasingly taking on to other traditional folk instruments of Punjab which were hitherto played exclusively by men.
Balancing a heavy "dhol", beating the "tili and daaga" (playing sticks) in perfect synchronisation with "bhangra" is not an easy task, says 18-year-old Niti Mahajan, one of the girls who has ventured into this field.
The efforts to revive folk music instruments of Punjab are in full swing. BBK DAV College for Women , Amritsar 's Head of Music Department, Ms Ritu Sharma, took up the formidable challenge to train college girls to play the instruments that had remained "taboo" for women. An eight-member band of women performers has emerged from her relentless effort.
These young girls won a string of prizes during the youth festival of the Guru Nanak Dev University three years back. They also won "Surtal 2002", a state-level function organised in Patiala by ministry of cultural affairs. The team also played for various foreign delegations including for Pakistani and British delegations.
Melodious and innovative musical compositions, skillful renditions and numerous practice sessions have successfully honed the skills of these young women artists, says Ritu . Mahajan's strong point is her "rhythm-control". Who adds that "Initially, the 'dhol' felt very heavy and I was unable to balance it on my shoulders. So I rested it on a table to learn the beats. I often forgot the beats, and my teacher, Mr Baljit Singh, would hit the beats with the playing sticks lightly on my head to practically drill them into me," she laughs.
Recalling her maiden performance Mahajan says "In my first performance on the stage, I used a stool. But later, rested the "dhol" on my shoulders like a typical Punjabi professional "Dholi " that added a lot of color and rhythm to the performances ." To a question whether she has become "Jageero" of the "DHOL JAGEERO DA " fame ..she laughs and tapped the dhol shaking a leg and her neck in rhythm mimicking the popular song in a mock demonstration .
Music is in the family of the teenaged sisters Simran Kashap and Satnam Kashap, nieces of famous 'WADALI BROTHERS' -- Puran Chand and Piara Lal. 'The girls' father, a "hazoori raagi", has been encouraging them, while their younger brother Gurinder Singh, a music composer, set many a tune for them, say the sisters.
Another girl Megha Bhasin, apart from being a "dhol" player is an accomplished "been" (instrument played by snake charmers and yogis) player. She also has the skills to play eight other folk instruments, including "nagara" (a war instrument), "chimta", "ghungroo", "sapp" (scissors), "bambi". "It took me at least three months of breathing exercises to play the "been" that is one of the most difficult instruments to play," says student-artist Ritu. Another artist Simran is an expert in playing instruments like "ektara", "tumbi", "daff", "chimta", and "sapp". Ms Satnam shows her promise with "ghara", "sarangi", "manjari", and "nagara". In fact, one of the most breathtaking performances by Ms Satnam had her play a metallic "ghaggar" rhythmically on a dim-lit stage. Although she suffered blisters while striking "ghaggar" with metal rings on which small firecrackers were strategically placed, yet she was in high spirits.
Ghungroos, sapp and kato are used in bhangra, while ghaggar, dholki, ghara, bambiha are used by giddha dancers. Bambiha is also used for singing "jagao". Dhaad and sarangi are used for singing of "vaars" (events from lives of Gurus). Nagara and shankh both are war instruments. Ghungroo or bells, vanjali or flute and been are musical instruments with a hypnotic effect. Shankh or conch and been are the most difficult instruments to learn. Both need breathing exercises and synchronisation. Surprisingly, conch-blowing does not need much effort, though it needs a specialised technique.
Khalsa College, Amritsar, here has its own plans for the revival for folk culture. It is all set for establishing Rs 2.75 crore project of "Guru Hargobind Singh Auditorium". It would also be setting up a "folk museum" to house folk items, including folk instruments. These musical instruments would include both rustic and refined folk instruments.
The "Heritage Village" concept of the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, may turn out as the biggest project for the revival of traditional folk culture and heritage. Conceived by Dr S.P. Singh, then Vice Chancellor of the varsity, it had Dr Gurmeet Singh as its Director. The blueprint of the project was been prepared by Dr Manjit Singh of the Town Planning Department here. The foundation stone of the village was inaugurated on the day of Baisakhi 2004.
If all goes well ……The village would have "chappar" (pond), "khuh" (well) and dhabha. Many traditional folk music instruments would be displayed there. Other projects in the offing are the displays of folk art and craft, costumes, domestic items and utensils, architecture and landscaping, folk games, folk medicines. ………………eom

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Four Hindu families from Pak seek refuge in India

Four Hindu families from Pak seek refuge in India
Amritsar, March 7 (PTI)
Stating that they do not wish to return to Pakistan due to Taliban's tyranny in the tribal areas, a group of 35 Hindus, nearly half of them women, from the neighbouring country have crossed over to India and asked the government to allow them to settle in the country. "We were living in Pakistan under extreme fear due to the domination of a strong group of Taliban who are running a parallel government," Jagdish Sharma, a resident of tribal area near Peshawar in Pakistan, said. I Recounting their ordeal, he said "Hindus and Sikh families are not safe, especially our women. We preferred to migrate in India, at least here in India we know that our families will be safe." The four families comprising 16 men, 16 women and three children crossed over to India during the last few days through the Attari check post and later went to Delhi where they got a one-year visa and permission to stay in Amritsar. "We strongly urge the Government of India to allow us to stay here in India permanently, since we don't want to move back in that hell where there is no life security," said Sharma. Hardwari Lal, resident of Orkzai nearly 180 km from Peshawar, said, "I was running my grocery shop there which was forcibly taken over by the fundamentalists who also took possession of our entire property". PTI

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Liquor baron wins over Gandhi

PHOTO: Items owned by Mahatma Gandhi on display before being auctioned in New York on Thursday. — Reuters
Liquor baron wins over Gandhi BY Ashish Kumar Sen/Vibha Sharma
Washington/New Delhi, March 6 Footprints
Sandals were given to a British army officer in Aden in 1931  The dinner bowl and pocket watch believed to have been given to niece and personal secretary Abha  The rimmed spectacles were probably given to the Nawab of Junagadh Surprise Bidder
 Former Test cricketer Dilip Rasiklal Doshi  Based in UK, Doshi’s company Entrack trades in international brands like Mont Blanc Successful Bidder
 Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, also the owner of Kingfisher Airlines  Mallya’s United Breweries is believed to have lost 79 pc of its market value since Sept 2007

IN an ironical twist, it was left to liquor baron Vijay Mallya to bid over Rs. 10 crore ( $2 million), which includes the commission to be paid to the auction house in New York, to buy the lot of personal belongings of Mahatma Gandhi that were put on auction by Los Angeles-based filmmaker and pacifist, James Otis. Mallya, who had at an earlier auction in London paid Rs. 4 crore for the sword of Tipu Sultan, yesterday paid two and a half times that amount to take home a pair of sandals, a Zenith pocket watch, a plate, bowl and the spectacles that Mahatma Gandhi is claimed to have used. The irony was not lost on people because the Mahatma considered consumption of alcohol to be a major social evil and had consistently urged for a ban on drinking. In deference to the Mahatma, the Indian Constitution carries the goal of Prohibition as a directive principle of state policy. Mallya, who was in France and kept in constant touch with his representative in the US, Tony Bedi, contradicted union minister Ambika Soni and claimed that his bid was not prompted by the Government of India or Indian officials. Speaking to a TV channel, Mallya held that he was emotionally satisfied at successfully retrieving the personal belongings of the Mahatma. “ We have been able to procure them through Vijay Mallya, who was in touch with us,” said an elated Soni, minister of culture in Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government. India could not have directly taken part in the auction as there was a restraining order of the Delhi High Court, she explained. While Bedi told The Tribune that the personal items could be sold to the Government of India, if it wanted to pay for them, Mallya indicated his plan to gift them to the government. He wanted the items to be displayed in a museum in either Bangaluru or Mysore. In a will prepared apparently in February, 1940, the Mahatma had declared Ahmedabad-based Navjivan Trust, founded by him in 1929, to be his heirs. “ While I do think I have any property, anything which by social convention or law is considered mine, I endow to the Navjivan Institution,” reads part of the will, claimed Managing Trustee Jitendra Desai. He had no clue as to the authenticity of the items or how they found their way into the possession of Otis. The spectacles and the watch, however, bore striking resemblance to the ones used by the Mahatma, he said in Ahmedabad. Bedi told The Tribune, “ My instructions were clear. I was not to lose this auction to a foreign bidder under any circumstances.” Initially Mallya had put a cap on what Bedi could bid. But later, recalled Bedi, Mallya pulled out all stops. New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal had earlier expressed an interest in bidding for the collection. But Bedi apparently told him that it would then be Chatwal’s responsibility to win the auction and pay for the items to be shipped to India. Watch director and auctioneer Julien Schaerer, told The Tribune that he had detected a more than usual interest in the auction from the Indian American community. This was possibly due to the fact that Gandhi was a man of few worldly possessions. CREDIT TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

Café to 'desi lassi' of Rajasansi , AMRITSAR

A small township Rajasansi -, a residence of the erstwhile Sandhanwalia family situated at the Ajnala Pargana, 1 km northwest of Amritsar, on the Amritsar Ajnala Road. It was founded in the year 1570 A.D. by a Jat Raja of Sansi tribe, and hence named Rajasansi . The Sandhawalias - the rulers of Rajasansi - had built a palace --a majestic building of historical significance — known as Sandhanwalia Haveli now is proposed to be renovated as a tourist site . the township has three mosques, a temple, a tehsil building, a civil hospital and a sarai. The population of the village, as per the 2001 Census, is 12,200. The village has been the hub of handicrafts. Many artisans still weave carpets on handlooms in their houses. PHOTO BY RAJIV SHARMA CAFE TO "DESI LASSI" OF RAJASANSI UN takes Amritsar on world map, Rajasansi under its wing RASHMI TALWAR AMRITSAR (RAJASANSI) MARCH 2009------
Plush cushioned seating, ambience of ancient palaces are likely to convert into ultra-modern cafes intact with the old world charm of the Maharajas, if the central government 's ambitious plan of United Nations Development New Country Programme (UNDNCP) transforms into reality . The idea is to Combine Rajasansi's traditional with the modern for a complete experience of "Punjab" in true blue-blood royal luxury with cultural and historical snippets thrown in for an unforgettable experience by tourists from all corners of the world. If it be thus ---gossamer lights would highlight the kaleidoscope of multi-colored rich Phulkari tapestry , glistening unsheathed swords would share space with tiny dices that saw many a king wager his kingdom, delicate jingle of colored bangles combine with this the tall brass glasses of famous Punjabi yogurt or "desi lassi" to guests – and it is sure shot hit with tourists from world over . The state government selected the historical village of Rajasansi, about 11 km from the holy city of Amritsar, for the Central Government UNDNC Programme at an estimated cost of Rs 28 crore that is aimed for renovation of the old palace of Rajasansi, setting up of tourist information centres, kala Kendras for artisans, beautification of surroundings which include glow-illumination of historical buildings besides improving civic infrastructure . the proximity of the Rajasansi International Airport is an added advantage as it offers the weary passenger a breather that not only promises to relax but is feast for the eyes . Adapted from an article from The Tribune