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A Kashmiri Century – Portrait of a Society in Flux

Khem Lata WakhluBOSTON, June 25: Since tragic political turmoil of 1990 in Kashmir, there has been an abundance of books written about Kashmir’s political experience and these prolific works express political situations of difference. Yet, social and cultural activities in their everyday lives have never been published till now.

It is not coincidental that Khem Lata Wakhlu’s latest book “A Kashmiri Century –Portrait of a Society in Flux", published by Harper Collins, presents her age long experience on Kashmir. It gives a compelling and deep personal account of Kashmir.

Chapter one details the ways in which Kashmir was renowned for its open societies, liberal outlook of its people with relaxed life of Hindus and Muslims alike, the ways in which lives revolved around simple pleasures. Also, she talks about experience of her childhood and youth as growing in Kashmir, taking readers on a compelling journey from her ancestral house of “Reshi-Ver” where most people would pursue their simple lives with love, oneness and living a life of balance. She belongs to the Dhars, an illustrious Pundit family from the valley of Kashmir, who have played a leading role as political participants in Kashmir over the years.

In the chapter Marriages, Love, Neighbors and Brides, Wakhlu conveys the importance of education among women, lending important contributions made by Pundit Parmanand Bhat, whose granddaughter, Dr. Vimla Dhar, was married to the author’s late younger brother, Dr Surender Nath Dhar, a renowned physician of Kashmir. Pundit Parmanand started the Rupa Devi Sharda Peeth Trust to educate women.

In the same chapter, Wakhlu mentions the extraordinary role played by Dr. Jagat Mohini Thussu. She provided modern healthcare and treatment procedures to women.

Wakhlu closes the book with the chapter titled “The phase of turmoil”. In the final section of the chapter, she details about the Armed Violence and Abductions, including her personal saga of kidnapping.

Wakhlu and her husband were kidnapped by armed militants of Hizbullah group and few months later of that her brother Dr. Surender Dhar was also abducted from the Chest Diseases Hospital where he headed the department. These were the Kashmiri Pundits who stayed behind to serve the people of Kashmir and became the soft targets.

This book is a broad overview of cultural social opus and the stories give cultural form to the importance of community sharing love for language, music and last but not the least Kashmiri humor.

It can be said that “A Kashmiri Century” is a one-of-a-kind book that delves deep into the human side of living in the Valley, an aspect often missing in the cold political treatises on Kashmir.

As a native Kashmiri, writer and social worker who has spent the last five decades serving people, Khem Lata Wakhlu has seen the socio-political landscape change like few others. The stories in the book provide a glimpse of the Kashmir that her generation and her grandparents and parents grew up in. The all-encompassing view of Kashmiri ethos and culture brings a fresh outlook that is much needed in our times.

Khem Lata Wakhlu has held important political positions in the National Conference, the Awami National Conference and the Indian National Congress, and has served as a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly for twelve years and as the minister of tourism in the state from 1984 to 1986. She was the chairperson of the state’s social welfare board, with the status of a minister of cabinet rank, from 2010 to 2014. She continues to serve as senior adviser to the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee.

-- Book Review by Prof. Sanjay Kaul, who is a Professor of Energy Management Technology at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts.

Uttarakhand Government Postpones Char Dham Yatra

DEHRADUN, June 29: Retracting its late-night decision and complying with the state's High Court order, the Uttarakhand government has now postponed the Char Dham Yatra with immediate effect till further orders.

With this, the proposed Yatra which was scheduled to begin from July 1 stands cancelled.

Despite the Court's order against holding Char Dham yatra this year, the state government had issued a fresh set of COVID guidelines for the pilgrimage and had said the first phase of the yatra would begin from July 1, while the second phase will commence from July 11.

The state High Court on Monday had stayed the state Cabinet's decision permitting Char Dham yatra with a limited number of pilgrims and had also ordered live streaming of Char Dham shrines.

Earlier on June 25, the State Cabinet decided to partially open the Char Dham yatra for locals in limited numbers from July 1. Initially, it was decided, the yatra would be opened for residents of Chamoli, Uttarkashi, and Rudraprayag districts with a cap on the number of pilgrims to visit the temples daily.

The four pilgrimage sites in Uttarakhand are Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri.

Amarnath Yatra Cancelled For The Second Year In A Row Amid COVID-19

NEW DELHI, June 21: The Amarnath Yatra has been cancelled for the second year in a row amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier, in view of the evolving COVID-19 situation, registration for Amarnath Yatra was temporarily suspended.

The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board had said that the situation is being constantly monitored. The 56-day Amarnath Yatra was due to start simultaneously on both routes from June 28 and culminate on Raksha Bandhan, August 22.

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir tweeted: "It's important to save people's lives. So, it is not advisable to hold and conduct this year's pilgrimage in the larger public interest."

The Yatra will be "symbolic only" but "all traditional religious rituals shall be performed at the Holy Cave Shrine," the Lieutenant-Governor's office said.

The annual pilgrimage to Amarnath shrine was discussed at Home Minister Amit Shah's high level meeting on Kashmir on Friday.

South African woman gives birth to 10 babies

PRETORIA, June 9: A South African woman has reportedly given birth to 10 babies in what would be a new world record.

Gosiame Thamara Sithole's husband says they were astonished by decuplets after scans only showed eight in the womb.

"It's seven boys and three girls. I am happy. I am emotional. I can't talk much," her husband Teboho Tsotetsi told Pretoria News after the birth.

One South African official confirmed the births to the BBC, however another said they were yet to see the babies.

A family member, who did not want to be identified, told the BBC that Ms Sithole had had 10 babies - five via natural birth and 5 via caesarean section.

Guinness World Records told the BBC it was investigating Ms Sithole's case.

A woman who had eight babies in the US in 2009 currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most children delivered at a single birth to survive.

Last month, 25-year-old Halima Cissé from Mali gave birth to nine babies, who are reportedly doing well at a clinic in Morocco.

Most pregnancies involving large numbers of babies end prematurely, says BBC Africa's health reporter Rhoda Odhiambo.

Multiple births involving more than three babies are rare and often the result of fertility treatments - but in this case the couple say they conceived naturally.

Ms Sithole, 37, previously gave birth to twins, who are now six years old.

She is said to be in good health after delivering 29 weeks into her pregnancy in Pretoria on Monday evening.

Speaking to Pretoria News a month ago, Ms Sithole said her pregnancy was "tough at the beginning" and she had prayed for a healthy birth, with many a sleepless night worrying about what was to come.

"How would they fit in the womb? Would they survive?" she asked herself, but was reassured by doctors that her womb was expanding.

Most pregnancies involving large numbers of babies end prematurely
When it was thought she was carrying eight foetuses, Ms Sithole was suffering leg pains and doctors found that two of the eight "were in the wrong tube".

"That was sorted and I have been okay since then. I can't wait for my children," she told the newspaper at the time.

Her husband also said he was over the moon, and felt like "one of God's chosen children. It's a miracle which I appreciate".

Meghan, Prince Harry welcome daughter Lilibet Diana

WASHINGTON, June 6: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, have announced the birth of their daughter, Lilibet 'Lili' Diana Mountbatten-Windsor.

According to Variety, Lili was born on Friday, June 4 at 11:40 am at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California. At the time of birth, representatives for the couple told Lili weighed 7 lbs 11 oz., and that both mother and child are in healthy condition, settling in at home.

Lili has been named after her great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, whose family nickname is Lilibet. Lili's middle name, Diana, is in honour of her late grandmother, the Princess of Wales.

As per Variety representative for the couple wrote in a statement, "The Duke and Duchess thank you for your warm wishes and prayers as they enjoy this special time as a family."

Meghan and Harry officially stepped down from their roles as senior royals last year. Since last summer, they have been living with Archie in their new home in Southern California. Lili joins older brother Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, who was born in 2019.

Facebook suspends Trump's account for two years

FLORIDA, June 4: The former US president’s Facebook account has been suspended since January 2021, following his post in which he seemed to back the actions of the Capitol rioters.

The company said it would revisit the decision two years from January 7. The decision came after months of debate over Trump’s future on social media.

Nick Clegg, Vice President, Global Affairs, Facebook, said: “Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.”

After the two-year period, Facebook will be reassessing the risks to public safety Donald Trump’s account may pose if reinstated. Clegg said: “We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest”.

He added: “If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”

Explaining why Facebook banned the former president for two years, Facebook said: "In establishing the two-year sanction for severe violations, we considered the need for it to be long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself."

Class 12 Board Exams Cancelled

NEW DELHI, June 1: There will be no exams this year for CBSE Class 12 students due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today. The decision, he said, was taken in the interest of students.

"Health and safety of our students is of utmost importance and there would be no compromise on this aspect," a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.

"Anxiety among students, parents and teachers, which must be put to an end...Students should not be forced to appear for exams in such a stressful situation. All stakeholders need to show sensitivity for students," it said.

Within minutes of the decision on CBSE, it was informed that the Council for Indian School Certificate, too, had called off its Class 12 Board Exams for this year.

The Prime Minister's decision came at the end of a key meeting held today on the matter. The meeting was attended by Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Chairman Manoj Ahuja, besides other officials.

CBSE will now take steps to compile the results of Class 12 students according to per well-defined objective criteria in a time-bound manner, according to the PMO.

"It is decided that any student who is not satisfied with the assessment, an option to appear in the examination would be provided by CBSE as and when the situation becomes conducive," a CBSE release said.

The decision to do away with the exam this year comes two days ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on the matter, during which the Centre is expected to file its reply on a plea seeking exactly this. The court had, on May 31, adjourned the hearing to June 3 after the Centre sought time to take a decision.

Earlier, during a May 23 meeting, CBSE had proposed holding the exam between July 15 and August 26. It also put forth two options: regular exams in 19 major subjects at notified centres and shorter-duration exams at schools where the students are enrolled.

A majority of the states expressed their opinion in favour of holding the exam, Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal had said following that meeting.

Welcoming the CBSE's decision taken today, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said it is an important step taken in the direction of safe health students across the country. "Heartfelt gratitude of all students and guardians towards the respected Prime Minister," he said in a tweet.

Uttar Pradesh had earlier cancelled the state board's Class X exams and proposed to hold the Class XII exams in the second week of July.

 

 



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