Friday, August 15, 2008

No place for violence in our society: Patil

New Delhi : President Pratibha Patil yesterday made an oblique reference to the violent incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, appealing for calm and urging efforts towards reconciliation. "Whatever the problem, whatever the cause, whatever the reason, there is no place for violence in our society. There is no issue that does not lend itself to dialogue and reconciliation," she said while addressing the nation on on the eve of the country's Independence Day. According to Patil, "The paths of peace and compromise can be complex and difficult, but pursue them we must. They alone will enable the nation to grow and prosper. "I appeal that calm be always maintained in all parts of the country and wherever differences exist, all efforts be directed towards reconciliation." Noting that great nations "are built with the contributions and hard work of one and all", she added: "On the other hand, violence in any form undermines its progress." During the address, Patil spoke on a wide range of issues, including terrorism, international relations, the need for ushering in a second Green Revolution, and the need for sustainable and cleaner sources to address energy security issues. She also asked scientists and researchers to find efficient and cost-effective options for growth. Patil maintained that terrorists, "with their disruptive agenda, will never succeed in discouraging us from our resolve to build a strong India, or from working with our neighbours to eliminate this menace from our region, or from our commitment to forge co-operative relations with other countries across the world". "Unfortunately, terrorist groups continue to receive support and sanctuary. India has been the target of terrorist attacks for several decades and, in more recent times so have many countries across the globe. We must stand united against the threats emanating from terrorism," the president said. Turning to agriculture, she noted that India's food security was dependent on the growth of the sector and that "our scientists and agricultural research institutes must work to usher in a second Green Revolution which, along with agro-biotechnology, can translate into an ever-Green Revolution in India". Noting that science and technology "holds the key to progress in today's knowledge based societies", Patil urged scientists and researchers to find efficient and cost-effective options for growth. Speaking about energy security, the president said: "We need to look at energy mixes that are sustainable in the long run and are cleaner sources of energy, gradually making a deliberate shift to renewable energy. "It should be our national mission to begin exploring ways in which new sources of energy can be harnessed viably. Technologies that increase efficiency in energy-intensive sectors need to be developed."

Musharraf \'not resigning\' over impeachment

ISLAMABAD,Pakistan : Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is negotiating through \"back-channel contacts\" to reach a compromise that would let him avoid impeachment, according to an official with the pro-Musharraf political party, PML-Q.However, Musharraf\'s spokesman called \"baseless\" the local media reports that he had decided to resign before Monday, when impeachment charges are expected to be filed.The push for Musharraf\'s removal gained steam this month, with three of Pakistan\'s four provincial assemblies calling for him to step down or face impeachment. Lawmakers in a fourth province, Balochistan, have indicated they\'ll vote soon on a similar resolution.The resolutions are non-binding, but they signal a growing drumbeat by Pakistani lawmakers to pressure the politically embattled president to leave office.Tariq Azim, PML-Q information secretary, said it was taking the ruling coalition a long time to compile a list of impeachment charges against Musharraf, making it a long, drawn process \"which will be harmful to the country.\"\"Because the impeachment process is very harmful to the country and may damage the country, we have to find a middle ground through reconciliation and talks,\" Azim said.Azim said that talks with the lead party in the ruling coalition -- the Pakistan People\'s Party (PPP) -- \"are going in the right direction.\"One option is for Musharraf to resign \"provided there are guarantees,\" he said.\"As I read the president, he will never leave the country and wants to stay here,\" Azim said.General Rashid Qureshi, Musharraf\'s spokesman, denied reports that the president was in talks with the PPP to avoid impeachment.Sherry Rehman, the PPP spokeswoman, gave no details about the talks but she said \"the party is not in the politics of revenge.\"The parliamentary process to unseat Musharraf would be arduous. The ruling coalition would have to compile a list of charges against Musharraf to impeach him. Once lawmakers submit charges, the National Assembly -- the lower house of Parliament -- would vote on whether to move forward with impeachment.A majority vote would be required for the charges to be considered. Next would come an actual vote on impeaching Musharraf.Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup nearly nine years ago and ruled Pakistan until his foes swept to victory in parliamentary elections in February. He has seen his power erode significantly since then.It is unclear how much support he still has among the military brass. The army has indicated that it wants to stay out of politics.Musharraf has long been an ally of the United States, which has sent Pakistan billions of dollars in aid during his administration to deprive Islamic militants of the sanctuary they have established along the country\'s rugged border with Afghanistan.

PM voices concern over J&K row on I-Day

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday unfurled the national flag at the Red Fort for the fifth successive year on the 61 st Independence Day.The Prime Minister started the day by visiting Rajghat to pay tribute to the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The unfurling of the tricolour was synchronised with the 21 gun salute fired by the valiant gunners of the elite 299 Field Regiment. Wishing the nation on its 61 st Independence Day, the prime minister said that today is a day to remember those who protect us. Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the 17th century monument amidst impregnable security, the Prime Minister called for people to unite for the development of the country. Voicing concern over violence in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned that dividing people in the name of religion could pose a threat to the unity of the country and asked all political parties to come together to resolve issues related to Amarnath land row through dialogue. Stating the need to further strengthen intelligence agencies and police forces in the country to deal with terrorism, Dr Singh said, \"We will not be able to pursue the peace initiatives with Pakistan if the issue of terrorism is not addressed.\" \"Recent blast in Indian Embassy at Kabul has cast a shadow over efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan,\" he said. He said he had personally conveyed his \"concern and disappointment\" to Pakistan over the Kabul embassy attack. Singh made it clear that Pakistan would have to end cross-border terrorism, saying without the issue being addressed \"all the good intentions that we have for our two peoples to live in peace and harmony will be negated. \"We will not be able to pursue the peace initiatives we want to take. The terrorists and those who support them are enemies of people of India and Pakistan, of friendship between the two countries and of peace in the region and the world. We must defeat them.\" Singh said India was seeking a peaceful, stable and prosperous neighbourhood and its foreign policy is based on these principles. \"We wish all our neighbours well.\" The Prime Minister noted that his government had strengthened relations with major powers and other countries of the world and said these efforts would continue, keeping in view the country\'s interests. Amid growing inflation, the PM said that the government was determined to bring prices under reasonable control. Government is trying its best to control inflation, he said. Announcing the Sixth Pay Commission, the PM said that the government has completed examination of Sixth Pay Commission report and gone beyond its recommendations in increasing emoluments of its employees. PM Manmohan also said that investment in agriculture has increased. "We have invested 25,000 crore in agriculture", he added. Concerned about the unemployment in India, the Prime Minister said, "increase in employment is our new slogan".

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trafficking trick: School kids vanish on NASA trip

JALANDHAR,INDIA: It doesn\'t take rocket science for Indians to disappear in the US. Or does it? In fact, such is the craze for settling abroad that they keep devising new ways to do so — from joining \"bhajan mandlis\" or cultural troupes to jumping into containers and even entering into fraudulent marriages. The latest in the long list of their tricks is taking the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Nasa route. Four students of a school in Mahilpur village of Hoshiarpur did just that while on a trip to the American space agency. The missing students of CBSE-affiliated Doaba Public Senior Secondary School — Sumit Sahni, Baljinder Singh, Dalbir Singh and Arshdeep Rahil — were aged between 14 and 15 years and part of a 21-member delegation, including two teachers, which left for the US on a Lufthansa flight on July 19. Three went missing in Washington the next day, saying they were going out to look for food. The fourth followed suit soon. Interestingly, one of the teachers who accompanied them hasn\'t returned either. Instead, she sent a mail saying she had got married and that her leave be extended for one month. The incident comes close on the heels of two students from a leading school in Jalandhar doing the vanishing act during an educational trip to the US. The management of CBSE-affiliated Doaba Public Senior Secondary School in Punjab has filed a complaint with the police, saying four students went missing on an educational trip for a NASA rocket project last month. It said that Minu Sharma, the teacher who accompanied the students along with vice-principal Harpreet Kaur, has sent an email to the school authorities, seeking extension of leave. \"We\'ve filed a complaint with the police here. Our delegation leader also informed the US homeland security and the Indian embassy about the four missing students there,\" said school principal Balwinder Kaur.

Minor fire at Reserve Bank building in Delhi

NEW DELHI,INDIA: A minor fire broke out on the ground floor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) building in the heart of the capital on Sunday. Eight fire-tenders were rushed to the spot and the fire that broke out around 6.25 p.m. was brought under control by 7.05 p.m. "There is no damage to property or records," an RBI spokesperson in Mumbai said. Guards at the building said the fire started in the UPS room where batteries are kept. Smoke was noticed and the fire service was informed. There was no one in the building at the time as it was weekend holiday. The cause is yet to be ascertained.

Ishmeet died due to drowning: viscera report

Patiala : The death of singing sensation Ishmeet Singh in a resort in Maldives on July 29 was simply a case of drowning, according to the viscera examination here. Dr Manjeet Singh Bal, Head of the Department of Pathology of the Government Medical College (GMC) said that he and three other doctors examined the viscera, brain and one lung and found that the cause of death was due to drowning. The team of four doctors -Bal, Anil Suri, Vijay Kumar and Mohinder Singh- examined the viscera received here after the post-mortem examination conducted at Civil Hospital in Ludhiana recently. The singer\'s death was \"simply a case of drowning\", Dr Bal said. The post-mortem conducted at Ludhiana on Ishmeet\'s body showed that the 19-year-old singer of Ludhiana died due to \"asphyxia\". Ishmeet, the winner of the reality show \'Voice of India 2007\', had gone to the Maldives for a stage show, but he died due to drowning in a swimming pool of the resort where the team was staying.

\'I\'m very fond of Sikh lifestyle\'

Mumbai: Akshay Kumar\'s Singh Is Kinng is running to full houses in cinema halls and its director Anees Bazmi says he hit upon the idea of making a full-on entertainer with a Sikh as the hero because he loves the \"community\'s lifestyle and daring\".Bazmi said he was always sure that he would do justice to the community and personally got Sikh groups to watch his film before its release.\"A lot of my friends are Sardarjis. I\'m very fond of them for their lifestyle and daring. I\'ve never done a film that would hurt any community\'s feelings. Quite frequently I get rid of potentially funny scenes when I feel they\'re offensive. I want to distribute love, not hatred, through my cinema,\" Bazmi said.He even went an extra mile to re-shoot scenes that Sikhs objected to. And for this, he had to fly Akshay Kumar back all the way from South Africa.\"I personally approached major Sikh communities to watch Singh Is Kinng. They pointed out scenes that were not quite right. We recalled Akshay Kumar from South Africa and re-shot those scenes. Then the Sikhs were quite happy.\"Our intentions cannot be doubted. People who saw the film on Wednesday say Singh Is Kinng is better than my No Entry and Welcome. My wife thinks this is my best work to date and my children love it. That\'s a relief. If people in my home don\'t like a film how can I expect people outside to like it?\" Bazmi said.The film boasts of a number of hit combos - Akshay-Katrina Kaif, Akshay-Vipul Shah and Akshay-Bazmi. So does the director feel it could be a victim of over-expectations?Said Bazmi, \"I\'ll say only one thing. I\'ve made a very good film. It\'s a much bigger film than my \'No Entry\' and \'Welcome\'. But I wasn\'t thinking of those films while making Singh Is Kinng. I didn\'t want to repeat the earlier formula. For the first time I\'ve incorporated action scenes in my cinema. I don\'t like action, but because of Akshay we had to include it.\"The director admitted that he was really nervous before the film\'s release and that he promptly headed to the Ajmer Sharif shrine in Rajasthan.\"I go before the release of all my films and spend four-five days in Ajmer Sharif. I\'m able to overcome my nervousness there.\"I don\'t make four films a year. I make one film every two years. So I\'ve no immediate project to fall back on. I\'ve put my entire life in Singh Is Kinng,\" Bazmi said.The director also faced questions about whether producer Vipul Shah, who has directed films like Namastey London, ghost-directed Singh Is Kinng. And he was quick to rubbish these rumours.\"Vipul never interfered. He\'s a smart producer. He knows I have 32 years of experience behind me in the industry, while Vipul has only directed three films. People are aware of my experience, and my last two films were massive hits. So when a producer invites me to make a film, why would he interfere? I hate producers who intrude in my work. And anyone who signs me knows it.\"Vipul loves and respects me. That\'s why he approached me. I\'d love to do another film with him. If Vipul didn\'t have confidence in me why would he let me direct? He\'d have done it himself.\"And the director credits Vipul Shah for enabling him to make the film in record time.\"I normally shoot one film at a time. It\'s because of my producer Vipul\'s planning that I could complete and release \'Singh Is Kinng\' eight months after my last release, Welcome.\"Bazmi also revealed that he has already shot for 20 days for his next project It\'s My Life, which stars budding actors Harman Baweja and Genelia D\'Souza.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vedanti skips Giani Gurbachan Singh\'s coronation

AMRITSAR: The rancour was finally evident on Thursday with former jathedar of Akal Takht Joginder Singh Vedanti not attending the coronation of Giani Gurbachan Singh. Vedanti's ouster has raised questions about the functioning of SGPC and SAD's influence over it. Though SGPC president Avtar Singh maintained that Vedanti submitted his resignation owing to poor health, the theory gaining ground is that he was asked to do this to avoid being sacked. Balwant Singh Dhillon, professor and Sikh scholar, opined that the existing system of removal and appointment of jathedars only suits those who think they are competent to appoint them. He said he failed to understand the reason behind Vedanti's sudden exit. Karan Singh, founder president of the Sikh Foundation, Switzerland, said the Sikh diaspora was not happy with the treatment meted out to Vedanti. He alleged that the SAD was ruling the SGPC by proxy and was using the influence of Akal Takht for its political purposes. Karan said his foundation would honour Vedanti and would also initiate an international move against his \"forcible\" removal. \"No one should be allowed to remove a person who is revered by the Panth in this fashion,\" he said. Vedanti was not available for comments. His personal assistant Prithipal Singh said he didn't understand why SGPC had locked the Akal Takht secretariat. \"I have my personal computer, \"Chandoa Sahib\" and few other belongings there,\" he said. Prithipal also said Vedanti would come before media at an appropriate time.

Chinese Islamic group issues new Olympic threat

URUMQI, China (AP): A Chinese Islamic group that has threatened to attack the Beijing Olympics released a new video warning Muslims to avoid being on planes, trains and buses with Chinese at the games, a U.S. group that monitors militant organizations said Thursday.The video was purportedly made by the Turkistan Islamic Party, which seeks independence for China\'s western Xinjiang region, the SITE Intelligence Group said. The militants are believed to be based in Pakistan, where security experts say core members have received training from al-Qaida.Last month, the militant group issued videotaped threats and claimed responsibility for a series of bus bombings in China. The new video, issued just ahead of Friday\'s opening of the games, features graphics similar to ones used earlier: a burning Olympics logo and an explosion imposed over an apparent Olympic venue.The speaker in the six-minute video wears a black turban and covers his face. Gripping a Kalashnikov rifle, he speaks in the Turkic language of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority in China\'s western Xinjiang territory. The Uighurs have with a long history of tense relations with the central government.Urging Muslims to \"choose your side,\" the man warns: \"Do not stay on the same bus, on the same train, on the same plane, in the same buildings, or any place the Chinese are,\" according to a translation by SITE.Ben Venzke, of Washington-based IntelCenter, another agency that monitors militant groups, identified the speaker as Abdullah Mansour from the group\'s religious education department.\"I think what they\'re doing is they\'re trying to capitalize on the buildup to the games,\" said Venzke.Venzke said his group believes that based on the militant group\'s demonstrated ability to conduct bombings \"and the apparent opportunity TIP believes the Olympic Games presents in terms of targeting and striking a blow to China, that the threat is credible and should be taken seriously.\"He said the release of a five-page written threat, in conjunction with two videos over the last three months by the group \"is indicative of an orchestrated campaign designed to fulfill jihadists belief that they should provide warning before launching a significant attack.\"More than 100,000 soldiers and police are guarding Beijing and other Olympic cities. Terrorism experts say the heavy security would likely force attackers to target less-protected areas.\"I think the actual Olympics themselves, the venues, the guests, the athletes, are going to be safe,\" said Drew Thompson, director of China studies at the Nixon Center in Washington.He added that Uighur groups haven\'t demonstrated any capabilities of attacking Beijing or other cities during the games. He also said there\'s nothing in the previous video that establishes conclusively that the Turkistan Islamic Party was involved in the explosions it claimed to have a hand in.But he added, \"There\'s obviously significant numbers of Uighurs ... with some sort of cause who have a grudge against ... Chinese authority and are prepared to use violence to seek whatever objectives they\'re seeking.\"This week, Chinese authorities say two Uighurs staged one of the most audacious attacks in years in Xinjiang. The men stole a truck and rammed it into a group of 60 border police during in Kashgar, a small city near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, authorities say. The men, who were later arrested, continued the attack with homemade bombs and knives, killing 16 police, officials said.Authorities have called the men terrorists, but officials have released no evidence linking them to a specific group.The video issued Wednesday claims the communist regime\'s alleged mistreatment of Muslims justifies holy war. It accuses China of forcing Muslims into atheism by capturing and killing Islamic teachers and destroying Islamic schools, according to the SITE. It says China\'s birth control program has forced abortions on Muslim women.Xinjiang\'s capital, Urumqi, appeared to be on high alert Thursday. Security guards were checking bags at the entrances of hotels, department stores and discos in the busy city, where office towers and apartments buildings have been shooting up in recent years.Guards with red arm bands rode on most public buses, watchful for attackers. Small groups of police patrolled the sidewalks of the bustling Muslim quarter, where merchants cooked lamb kebabs and sliced up watermelons at fruit stands.The officers were largely ignored by the Uighur women in colorful head scarves and the men wearing skull caps decorated with elaborate embroidery or sequins, who haggled over goods or shouted into mobile phones.Meanwhile, in Kashgar — an hour and half west of Urumqi by plane — the police killed in Monday\'s attack were declared to be \"revolutionary martyrs\" during a memorial ceremony, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.\"The people of all ethnic groups in Kashi will remember you forever,\" said one banner held up by the crowd, Xinhua said, using the Chinese name for the town.Although signs and slogans around the city urge people to \"build a harmonious Kashgar,\" the residents seem to be far from achieving the goal. Mutual resentment and contempt is almost palpable and seems to simmer beneath a facade of relative calm.At the Hua Du Hotel in northwestern Kashgar, a help wanted poster said the business wanted to hire workers who were female and Han Chinese — the nation\'s majority ethnic group.The manager, who wouldn\'t give her name, said, \"We need someone with good language skills and most Uighurs can\'t speak Chinese well. We also have high standards for cleaning the rooms, and Uighurs just can\'t meet those standards.\"In Kashgar\'s Old City district, a 22-year-old Uighur shopkeeper said that Xinjiang independence was virtually impossible. The man, who only gave his English name Michael because he feared reprisals, said he opposed violent attacks on Han Chinese.But he added, \"I don\'t like the Chinese because they don\'t like Uighurs. We are Muslims and they dislike Islam. We have different values. We\'re two different people.\"

Jackie Chan releases Olympic album

Jackie Chan (R), with China Central Television anchor Bai Yansong, promotes his album, one of the two solo albums authorized by the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, at the release ceremony in Beijing on August 7, 2008. [Photo:]One day before the Beijing Olympics opening, Jackie Chan released an official Olympic album and became the only male singer authorized to do so.The \"Official Album for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games - Jackie Chan\'s Version\" is one of the two solo albums with authorization granted by the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, reported The Web site broadcasted the launch ceremony at the Olympic Park on Thursday.The other record to be released soon is by songstress Tan Jing, according to Yu Binghan, who produced both albums.Chan\'s album includes 10 songs he sang for the \"Official Album for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games,\" a star-studded compilation released on April 30. Tracks include \"We Are Ready\" and \"Welcome to Beijing.\"\"The album is an extension of the official compilation,\" Yu Binghan told Sina. \"We chose Jackie because he is the best-known Chinese celebrity, and also because he has done a lot for the Olympics.\"Chan received his Olympic volunteer certificate from the organizing committee on August 3 at the inauguration ceremony for China Story, a project promoting Chinese culture and for which he and Tan Jing will together sing the theme song.He is also set to promote Chinese culture to foreign broadcasters during the games, Sina reported.Chan wore sports clothes to his album\'s launch ceremony, and said the garments were one of the 101 sets that he has had custom made for Olympic occasions.Each set is printed with Olympic rings and features different Chinese characters. The one he wore Thursday reads \"Peace\" and \"Friendship.\"He said that he would put the costumes up for auction after the Olympics and donate the proceeds to charity.

Shilpa Shetty ready for Bigg Boss

Mumbai:The second season of reality show Bigg Boss is all set to hit television screens on Aug 17 and will be hosted by Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty.It would be the first reality show to be telecast on all seven days of the week. The Indian version of the popular British reality show Big Brother, Bigg Boss will see 14 people, including celebrities, locked into a house under the surveillance of over 30 cameras for a period of three months. These housemates will have no contact with the outside world.Shilpa, who won Big Brother last year, was almost a natural choice to host the second season of the Indian version. And she had a word of advise to those participating in the show. \"The winner needs to just be oneself ... that\'s the main mantra,\" Shilpa said.The actress also emphathised with the participants as she had been through the situation herself.\"I\'ll try to give them a little respite as I know that they will be going through a tough time. I remember what it was to live with strangers in a house cut off from the outside world with nobody to trust and vouch for,\" she said.Asvini Yardi, programming head of Colors, said Shilpa would be more like a mentor for the participants as she has gone through a similar experience.CEO Kamat refused to divulge the names of the participants and said they would be revealed only on Aug 17 - the first episode.He said that the second season would see many additions to the first one.\"For the fist time we have included newsmakers as well as common people on the show. Besides, we are also introducing a half-an-hour live and unedited slot everyday starting second week that will be aired at 12.30 am.\"While there won\'t be any privacy, the house located on the outskirts of Mumbai would have no phones, television, internet, books or even a clock.The 14 participants competing for a prize money of Rs 7.5 million will be allowed to bring only essential items to the house and they would have to cook and clean the place themselves.Participants are voted out by housemates and the audiences periodically. The first season of Bigg Boss was aired in 2006 on Sony Television.

Monday, August 4, 2008

India can expect Japan\'s support at NSG meet

NEW DELHI,INDIA: India could expect the support of Japan at the upcoming Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting, with a senior official of the country on Monday saying that Tokyo understands New Delhi\'s energy needs and would adopt an approach that strengthens the non-proliferation regime. Giving enough hints about his country\'s expected position at the August 21-22 meeting of NSG in Vienna, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama noted that Tokyo had gone with consensus at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on India-specific safeguards despite having reservations on non-proliferation issues. Kodama told reporters here that Japan understands India\'s needs for energy and aspiration for nuclear power in view of growing economy and would \"actively participate\" in the NSG deliberations when the grouping considers a waiver for India. The Japanese position would be such, which would strengthen, rather than hamper, the universal non-proliferation system. The statement is significant as the US, Russia, Britain,France and several other countries have been maintaining that giving a waiver to India would strengthen the non-proliferation regime by bringing New Delhi within the system.

Dhoni to receive Khel Ratna

New Delhi: For the fifth consecutive year, no footballer has found a place in the annual list of Arjuna awardees, which was finalised on Monday.According to sources, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has decided to confer the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award to Team India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the Arjuna Award to 10 sportspersons in as many disciplines.Among the Arjuna awardees are star golfer Arjun Atwal, Beijing-bound shooter Avneet Kaur and athlete Chitra Soman, a part of India's 4x400 women's relay team, which is expected to do well in the Olympics.Soman was also the member of the relay team that won the gold medal in the last Asian Games and the Asian championships.Hockey player Prabhjot Singh, who played a lead role in India's triumph in the senior Asia Cup and was later nominated for the World Player of the Year award, has been selected for the Arjuna award.While Dhoni became the second cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar to bag the Khel Ratna, the committee, consisting of eminent sportspersons of yesteryears, did not consider any of the four footballers for the Arjuna Award, whose names were recommended by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia was the only current sportsperson in the selection committee, but he could not attend the meeting.I.M. Vijayan was the last Indian footballer to be awarded the Arjuna in 2003. Dempo coach Armando Colaco, who guided the Goan team to two consecutive triumphs in the National Football League (NFL) and the I-League, has also not been considered for the Dronacharya Award.

SAARC nations resolve to jointly fight terror

COLOMBO: The 15th SAARC Summit concluded here on Sunday, expressing deep concern over the serious threat posed by terrorism to the peace, stability and security of the region and emphasising the need for the "strongest possible cooperation" in fighting terror and trans-national organised crime, especially in the area of information exchange.The Colombo Declaration, titled "Partnership for growth of our people," adopted at the concluding session, dwelt at length on terrorism and issues such as trade promotion and measures to face the challenges posed by climate change. The concluding session was followed by a retreat of the SAARC leaders at the Parliament House on the outskirts of the capital. The leaders reiterated their commitment to strengthening the "legal regime against terrorism" by implementing all international conventions relating to combating terrorism to which the member-states are parties, as well as the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and the Additional Protocol to the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism.The Declaration said the leaders recognised the growing linkage between terrorism and illegal trafficking in narcotic and psychotropic substances, humans and firearms and stressed the need to address the problem in a comprehensive manner.While recalling that the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) emphasised the importance of criminalising any act for the provision, collection and acquisition of funds with the intention of committing terror acts, the leaders recognised the value of the proposed U.N. Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The draft, tabled by India, is pending finalisation due to lack of consensus among the member-States on some aspects, including an acceptable definition on what constituted terrorism.

Dhumal seeks report on Naina Devi stampede

SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on Monday convened a meeting of officials and reviewed the arrangements in the Naina Devi shrine to regulate the rush of devotees. The meeting comes in the wake of the stampede at the shrine on Sunday that claimed the lives of 146 people. Mr. Dhumal said the Divisional Commissioner had been asked to submit a report on the tragedy within two weeks. A committee, consisting of top officials, had been entrusted with the task of formulating appropriate guidelines for adoption by the temple authorities to cope up with any emergent situation caused due to heavy rush during peak season.The government would study the pattern followed by the Jammu and Kashmir government in regulating the devotees in the Vaishno Devi temple and incorporate suggestions from various quarters and the report of the Divisional Commissioner. Mr. Dhumal said that of those who perished, 23 were from Haryana, seven from the Una district of Himachal and the rest from Punjab. Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal visited the shrine and announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 1 lakh to the next of the kin of the deceased. Despite the tragedy, people thronged the shrine on Monday and there was vast improvement in the arrangements. There was an improved public address system, more police regulating the devotees from the base.

Clampdown in China Muslim region after 16 police killed

KASHGAR,China (AFP): Chinese authorities moved Tuesday to keep a lid on further information about a deadly assault on police in Kashgar, as a quiet tension gripped this heavily Muslim city a day after the attack.At the hotel directly across from the site of the raid, which left 16 police dead, guests were told the Internet had been shut off -- not only in the hotel, but the whole city -- on police orders.The 16 police were killed in the city in northwest China\'s Xinjiang region on Monday in a suspected terrorist attack, state media said, raising security fears just days before the Beijing Olympics.In one of the deadliest reported assaults in China in years, a lorry was aimed at 70 police officers jogging near their barracks, the Xinhua news agency said.One attacker threw home-made explosives at the police, the report said. It said the two attackers, aged 28 and 33, were arrested immediately, and identified the men as members of the Muslim ethnic Uighur group.Authorities seemed intent Tuesday on preventing anything beyond the official version of events from getting out.Police entered an AFP photographer\'s hotel room and forced him to delete photos he had taken of the scene. Plainclothes police followed journalists as they moved around the city.However, there was no obvious increased police presence in the city as people went about their business in Kashgar\'s main commercial district.But few were willing to speak to reporters about what happened for fear of retribution from authorities.A Uighur street cleaner who sweeps sidewalks in the area where the attack took place refused to talk about what he saw.\"It\'s in the reports, you can read about it in the media reports,\" he said, refusing to give his name. \"I don\'t want to talk about this anymore.\"The incident cast a pall over the Olympic countdown, after government warnings that members of Xinjiang\'s Uighurs , a Turkic-speaking people, were planning to wreck the Games.Beijing Olympic organisers said they did not know yet if there was a direct connection to the showpiece sporting event, which begins on Friday.But China has said repeatedly that a major terrorist threat emanates from Xinjiang and that militants from the region were planning to stage attacks on the Games.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Demand to Ban \'Singh is Kinng\'

\'Singh is Kinng\' row: public should decide, says SGPC
Chandigarh, Aug 3 (PTI) Two days after Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) sought a ban on Akshay Kumar starrer \"Singh is Kinng\" for allegedly \"ridiculing\" the Sikh community, the SGPC today downplayed the row saying the matter should be left for the public to decide.
\"I think too much is being made even before the film has been released. Let public watch the film and react and then we will see,\" Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) President Avtar Singh Makkar said.

He said the SGPC, the apex religious body of the Sikhs, had already formed a five-member committee to see if the film, due for release on Friday, would hurt the religious sentiments of the community.

\"The members have reviewed the film and come to the conclusion that the matter should be left to the public to decide. Raking up unnecessary controversy should be avoided. The filmmaker (Vipul Shah) had assured us that there will be no negative portrayal of Sikhs in the film,\" Makkar told PTI over phone.

He said \"Singh is Kinng\" is an \"ordinary film\" not based on Sikhs as such and \"therefore, we should not straightaway start making hue and cry.\" On Friday, DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna while seeking a ban on the movie also wrote a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, asking her not to allow screening of the film in the national capital until its makers made changes in the portrayal of the Sikh character.

Sarna had said the film\'s promos showed a Sikh character wearing a turban while sporting a French cut. PTI

Friday, August 1, 2008

CPI-M leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet dead

Noida: Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet died of multiple organ failure on Friday afternoon at the Metro Hospital in Noida.The 92-year-old leader had been in and out of hospital for several months now. Doctors said the immediate cause was a massive heart attack.Surjeet was admitted to the hospital on July 7. Last week, his condition deteriorated and he was put on a ventilator. The end came at 1335 hrs IST, Dr Purushottam Lal of the hospital said.He was seen as the pragmatist in the CPI-M and was valued for his ability to make alliances across the political spectrum.

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