Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Pakistan bans Saif’s ‘Agent Vinod’

 
Pakistan’s censor board has banned Saif Ali Khan’s Bond-style caper ‘Agent Vinod’ citing the film’s references to the country’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.
IMGC Global, the Pakistani distributor of the film - which also stars Khan’s real-life flame Kareena Kapoor - confirmed the ban in a statement, as did Atrium Cinemas, one of the biggest multiplex operators in the country.
The film had been slated for a March 23 release in Pakistan, a market which is an important one for Bollywood films.
There has been no official confirmation from the censor board but the Press Trust of India quoted sources as saying the film was banned as it contained references to ISI which “could hurt the sentiments of people in Pakistan.”
Reports say that Pakistani media outlets had been heavily promoting the film over the past two weeks but multiplexes ceased ticket pre-sales after learning of the censor board’s decision.
In its statement, IMGC Global’s chairman Amjad Rashid said, "Agent Vinod had been banned due to the contents of the movie.  Entertainment should facilitate the peace process between India and Pakistan and not disturb it. Now that India and Pakistan are extending cooperation on the business front, especially after the exchange of visits of both the Ministers of Commerce, this can jeopardise the business progress and environment."
Rashid further suggested that films "should not hurt either the religious or national sentiments of Pakistanis" or "decelerate the Indo-Pakistan peace-building process".
- Poonam Joshi

Pakistan bans Saif’s ‘Agent Vinod’

Norway kids row father makes dramatic sensation

 
The Indian father whose children were taken into care by Norwegian authorities, sparking a diplomatic furore between the countries, has sensationally declared that the children’s mother was suffering from “psychological problems”.
Anurup Bhattacharya and his wife Sagarika, from the southern Norwegian town of Stavanger, had thus far insisted their children - aged three and one - had been taken away in May 2011 by Social Services for ‘cultural reasons’, including them sharing a bed with the father and using their fingers to eat.
The claims drew widespread outrage in the Indian media and prompted the country’s foreign minister S M Krishna to demand the children’s return to the parents or relatives.
Norwegian officials however denied the parents’ claims and said that confidentiality laws prevented the disclosure of details surrounding the case.
"It was not just cultural bias that prompted the CWS (child welfare services) to act” Mr Bhattacharya told The Hindu on Tuesday.  “My wife has a serious psychological problem."
He further said he had decided to speak out after a row with his wife in which she allegedly attacked him, and that he had "concealed the seriousness" of problems within his family.
Mr Bhattacharya is now reportedly seeking full custody of the children.
A final decision on the case is to be taken by a Stavanger court on 23 April.
- Reporting by Sid Dharshan/Edited by Vijitha Alles

Norway kids row father makes dramatic sensation

Muslims, Sikhs attack government’s gay marriage plans



David Cameron’s plan to legalise gay marriage is “unnecessary and unhelpful”, the country’s largest Muslim organisation has said.
The leader of Britain’s Sikh community also attacked the proposal to extend the definition of marriage to same-sex couples, describing it as an “assault on religion”.
Senior Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops have already warned that the move will undermine social structures dating back thousands of years.
Mr Cameron is facing a backlash from his own supporters, with senior Tory MPs, including several ministers, expected to vote against the reforms.
However, he argues that the Conservatives should support gay marriage on the grounds that stability and commitment in relationships of any kind should be encouraged.
Last week, ministers published a consultation on how the changes to civil marriage laws will be introduced. The plans explicitly rule out alterations to religious marriage.
However, the Muslim Council of Britain said case for the government’s proposals was “strikingly weak”.
Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, said: “Whilst we remain opposed to all forms of discrimination, including homophobia, redefining the meaning of marriage is in our opinion unnecessary and unhelpful.
“With the advent of civil partnerships, both homosexual and heterosexual couples now have equal rights in the eyes of the law.
“Therefore, in our view the case to change the definition of marriage, as accepted throughout time and across cultures, is strikingly weak.
In common with other Abrahamic faiths, marriage in Islam is defined as “a union between a man and a woman”, he said. “So while the state has accommodated for gay couples, such unions will not be blessed as marriage by the Islamic institutions.”
Lord Singh, head of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said the proposed reforms represented “a sideways assault on religion”.
“It is an attempt by a vocal, secular minority to attack religion,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Sikhs believed in marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that changing the definition was an attack on the English language, he said. “We have total respect for gays and lesbians and we are delighted that there is a Civil Partnership Act. We believe that this gives gays and lesbians everything they need.”
Lord Singh’s criticism followed similar concerns from leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in the UK and the Church of England.
Senior Conservatives have also expressed their alarm at the plan, on which Tory MPs have been promised a free vote.
Writing in his Telegraph blog, the former Conservative Cabinet minister, Lord Tebbit, yesterday attacked Mr Cameron’s blueprint for a “politically correct new order”.
“No one seems to have thought through the massive legislative ramifications of the Prime Minister’s latest attempt to distance himself from that toxic Thatcherite Tory Party which kept winning elections,” he said.
“Mr Cameron's justification for all this is that he believes in it ‘because he is a Conservative’ is absurd. Conservatives do not turn over long-standing (several thousands of years across widely different cultures all over the world, in this case) with so little thought... Perhaps it is another contagion from his Lib Dem partners.”
However, Rachel Muers, a Quaker theologian and senior lecturer in Christian studies at the University of Leeds, said Quakers wanted to “affirm and celebrate” same-sex couples in a religious context.
“We are clear that we can't impose our beliefs on others,” she told the Today programme.
-    Tim Ross/The Daily Telegraph

Muslims, Sikhs attack government’s gay marriage plans

Preeya Kalidas to release next single in April

 
The ravishing Preeya Kalidas has revealed details of her latest music release.
Titled ‘Love Between Us’, the single is the follow up to 2011’s ‘ It’s A Problem’ and is described as an up-tempo urban ballad with a – wait for it! – Bollywood feel.
The song features a sample from the classic tune ‘My Name is Lakhan’ from the 1989 Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit masala smash ‘Ram Lakhan’, a film Kalidas grew up watching.
‘Love Between Us’ was co-written by Preeya and was produced by Davinche, the producer whose previous clients have included the phenomenal Tinie Tempah.
Davinche is one of a number of producers and writers Preeya’s been working with for her forthcoming debut album which she’s been working on in between stints as part of the ever-intriguing Masood family on Eastenders.
‘Love Between Us’ releases next month.
- Poonam Joshi

Preeya Kalidas to release next single in April

Rushdie decries “intolerance” in India


 
British author Salman Rushdie made it to his country of birth this week and reignited the debate about freedom of speech and tolerance in India, or what he claims is the distinct lack of both.
The scribe took his visit to the India Today Conclave in New Delhi to once again lash out at sub-continental politicians who continued to pander to “religious fanaticism” and indulged in “political opportunism”.
“A combination of religious fanaticism, political opportunism and public apathy is damaging that freedom on which all other freedoms depends: the freedom of expression,” Rushdie told the conference.
He also accused the ruling Congress party of trying to appease Muslim voters in the recent UP state poll.
“It didn’t even work Rahul. Years and years of kneeing down in front of every mullah you can find and it didn’t even work, it must feel sick,” Rushdie said in a dig at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi after the party performed poorly at the elections.
Rushdie also ridiculed Pakistan cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who pulled out of a scheduled speech at the same conference due to Rushdie’s alleged anti-Muslim writings.
Khan had chosen “to demonise a book written 25 years ago and to make its author a bogey man with which to distract his audience from the immeasurable hurt of their actual lives”, Rushdie said.
Rushdie drew gasps of surprise from the India Today Conclave audience by asking: “Have you noticed the physical resemblance between Imran Khan and (slain Libyan dictator Moamer) Qadhafi?”
“If you were making a movie of the life of Qadhafi and you wanted a slightly better-looking version of Qadhafi you might cast Imran Khan,” Rushdie said with a grin.
“He would need to act of course, which would be a problem.”
The 64-year-old author said the re-emergence of controversy over “The Satanic Verses” was part of a trend in India of the threat of violence being used to silence opposing opinions and artistic expression.
“What is becoming more commonplace in India is a cultural war against all forms of art,” he said. “It seems almost every day now somewhere there is a piece of bullying by Muslims or Hindus of groups they believe offend them.”
Rushdie added that “immeasurable harm” was being done to Islam by terrorists and fanatics such as those who killed former Punjab governor Salmar Taseer, whose son writer Aatish Taseer was tasked with interviewing the author on stage.
Rushdie said common people were more sensible than their leaders and 95 percent of Muslims in India were not in favour of the violence and the things being said in their name.
-   UKAsian Staff (Edited by Vijitha Alles)

Rushdie decries “intolerance” in India

Majority of young Brit-Asians support ‘Honour Code’

 
A majority of young British Asians support implementing a code of honour in their families and communities, according to a poll conducted by the BBC’s Panorama program.
The study of 500 young Asians also revealed 18% thought physical beatings on women was justfiable for certain ‘crimes’, including disobeying the father or wanting to leave an existing or prearranged marriage.
Alarmingly, 6% of those polled said ‘honour killing’ was permissible.
Women’s Rights activist Jasvinder Sanghera – herself a victim of abuse – told Panorama it was time for Britain’s Asian community to speak out about the prevalence of the honour code:  “I’ve yet to see community leaders, religious leaders, politicians, Asian councillors give real leadership on this” she said.
“They don’t because they know it makes them unpopular.”
Nazir Afzal of the Crown Prosecution Service said “We don’t know the true figure of honour killings.  It’s anything between 10 and 12 a year in this country. I don’t know how many other unmarked graves there are in this country in our green and pleasant land.”
-    Staff Reporter (Edited by Vijitha Alles)
Panorama: Britain's Crimes of Honour: Monday 19th , BBC One, Monday 19 March at 20:30 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

Majority of young Brit-Asians support ‘Honour Code’

Becoming an abuse statistic in patriarchal India

 
Journalist Nita Bhalla recounts the lingering scars - physical and mental - from an assault on her and draws a wider lesson about violence against women in patriarchal India.
I stand in front of the mirror, surveying my face and body - still in shock at how it could have happened to me.
Six days on, the swelling on the right side of my face which he banged into the wall has subsided, the bruise under my right eye where he punched me has turned deep purple and those on my arms and legs where he grabbed and kicked me are fading.
The marks around my neck from when he tried to choke me, I conclude, are healing the fastest. Yet I still decide to wrap a scarf around my neck before leaving for work.
Globally, six out of 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence - mostly committed by a husband or an intimate partner, says UN Women.
And India, the country I am based in, is not much better.
Around 37% of Indian women have experienced some form of abuse by their husbands - pushing, slapping and hair pulling, punching, kicking, choking or burning - according to the Indian government's last National Family Health Survey.
Activists say the actual figures are likely to be more than double this, but despite greater awareness and more gender-sensitive laws, few women are willing to come out and talk openly about the violence they face by those who purport to love them.
The statistics are not surprising for me. But being a statistic is.
Reporting on women's rights issues in South Asia over the last three years, I have covered the plethora of threats which haunt the millions of women who live in this deeply patriarchal region.
The violations are vast and varied - from the illegal abortions of female foetuses to the immolation of young brides by their in-laws for not fulfilling dowry demands, to brothers who murder their sisters for falling in love with "unsuitable" men.
I have visited villages in northern India where women hide behind veils and weep as they recount their stories of being sold and trafficked as brides, kept as slaves and beaten and raped by their husbands and "shared" among brothers.
I have spent hours in women's shelters buried in New Delhi's slums, interviewing battered women with blackened and burnt arms, after their drunken husbands' poured kerosene over them and set them alight.
I have spoken to health workers, gender experts, women's activists, and government officials on numerous issues - from the psychological reasons of "power and control" that lie behind gender abuse to the adverse impacts of the low status of women on India's development efforts.
While physical and sexual violence against women is unfortunately something that afflicts every society, the high levels to which it is acceptable in India are sometimes unfathomable.
The National Family Health Survey found that 51% of Indian men and 54% of Indian women found it justifiable for a man to beat his wife.
And the silence that surrounds such abuse helps perpetuate that acceptability.
Not the understandable silence of victims who are afraid or not empowered enough to speak out, but the incomprehensible silence of others - family, friends, neighbours and even passers-by - who choose to turn a blind eye.
Interviewing victims and hearing of how their families and friends knew, but did nothing, was something that I never really understood.
But now I have experienced that silence.
When he pulled my hair and kicked me as I lay on the pavement, there was a deafening silence from my neighbours who heard my screams but were reluctant to intervene.
I heard it from the group of young men walking past, who stopped a few feet away to watch as he beat me. And I heard it from the auto-rickshaw drivers who were parked at the stand across the road in the early hours of that morning.
The reasons for violence against women are many, gender experts say.
What I went through may have been about power - born out of an abuser's insecurity or frustration of not being able to control the female which he believes he owns - an issue relevant across the world.
The high levels of gender violence which persist in India, activists say, are mainly down to deeply-rooted, age-old discriminatory beliefs.
Despite the country's impressive economic growth and exposure to "Western liberalism" over the last two decades, women are still largely seen as objects to be exploited.
Poverty, illiteracy, a lack of enforcement of gender-sensitive laws, and few opportunities for women to empower themselves have allowed crimes, like the trafficking of rural girls to cities like Delhi and Mumbai for sex and domestic work or the high levels of rape and sexual harassment, to persist.
But other violations, such as female foeticide or so-called "honour killings" and "stove burnings" which occur here are often rooted in a culture where a female's sexual behaviour is linked to her family's reputation and a tradition where hefty dowries are expected to marry off daughters - a "burden" many can do without.
I still keep thinking: "This did not happen. This does not happen to women like me."
Most of the victims we read about in India are largely uneducated women from poorer backgrounds - reinforcing a general perception that domestic violence or intimate partner violence is more pervasive in groups of a lower socio-economic status.
Yet professional women in India also face such abuse, but rarely speak of it.
Some married women are afraid of being accused of "breaking up the family" and are expected to put up and maintain their silence, while single women I know are worried of being seen as "weak" as they strive to break through the glass ceiling in their male-dominated professions.
And so now it is I - a professional, educated, independent woman - who is standing behind a curtain inside the trauma centre in Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences, as a nurse makes me undress and examines my injuries.
She, like the doctor, my work colleagues, neighbours and friends, seems as shocked as I am.
They stare at my black eye, asking the same question.
"How could this happen to YOU?"
Horrifyingly, I realise, it can happen to anyone.
-    Journalist Nita Bhalla covers women’s issues in South Asia.  This article first appeared on www.bbc.co.uk

Becoming an abuse statistic in patriarchal India