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Activist Disha Ravi arrested, police say she shared ‘toolkit’ with Greta

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A 22-year-old student and climate activist from Bengaluru, Disha Ravi, was arrested on Sunday by Delhi Police in the case involving “Toolkit” tweeted earlier this month by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg to show support for protesting farmers.

The police on Sunday accused her of being a key conspirator in the document’s formulation and dissemination and alleged that she was trying to revive a Khalistani group.

She worked closely to draft the document, the Delhi Police said after Disha was taken into custody for five days.

“In this process, they all collaborated with pro-Khalistani Poetic Justice Foundation to spread disaffection against the Indian state. She was the one who shared the Toolkit doc with Greta Thunberg,” said a senior police officer.

Disha who was arrested from Soladevanahalli area of Bengaluru on Saturday broke down in the courtroom and told the Duty Metropolitan Magistrate that she did not make the ‘Toolkit’ but only “edited two lines on February 3”.

However, Delhi Police also said that she asked Greta to remove the main document after its incriminating details accidentally leaked into the public domain. This is many times more than the two lines editing that she claims.

According to the police, the unfolding of events during the farmers’ protest on 26 January, including violence near the Red Fort, allegedly revealed copycat execution of the ‘action plan’ detailed in the ‘toolkit’.

Delhi Police had registered an FIR on 4 February on charges of sedition, criminal conspiracy and promoting hatred among groups under Sections 124-A, 120-A and 153-A of the Indian Penal Code against the “creators” of the ‘toolkit’, which was shared by climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Graduating from Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru, Disha has been regularly writing columns and articles in leading news portals on climate action and is a familiar name in important climate forums frequented by youth activists across the globe. She describes herself as co-founder of Fridays For Future, India.

In an interview to Auto Report Africa in 2020, she is quoted as saying: “My motivation to join climate activism came from seeing my grandparents, who are farmers, struggle with the effects of the climate crisis. At the time, I wasn’t aware that what they were experiencing was the climate crisis because climate education is non-existent where I’m from. Only when I did my research, did I find out about it.”

However, Disha’s role came under the lens of the Delhi Police after Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted a toolkit document which the police say had led to the 26 January violence in New Delhi. Though the Delhi Police did not name Thunberg in the FIR, it went ahead to register the case against the authors of the toolkit.

The police later described Disha as key conspirator in the document’s formulation and dissemination and said that she started a WhatsApp group and collaborated to draft the document.

After Disha was sent to police remand for five days, sources in Delhi Police said that more arrests are likely, based on the investigation of the arrested accused.

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Is it justifiable? Nitish jibes Giriraj Singh for ‘beat up officials’ remark

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New Delhi [India], March 8 (ANI): Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday used sarcasm to target Union Minister Giriraj Singh’s recent remark of “beating up officials.”
The union minister and BJP leader had on Saturday during a public meeting at his constituency of Begusarai in Bihar advised people to “beat up with bamboo sticks” those officials who appeared insensitive to their concerns.
When asked about Singh’s remarks, the chief minster said: “You should ask him if using the word ‘beat up’ is justifiable or appropriate.”
Singh had in his address said: “If someone (any government official) doesn’t listen to your grievances, hit them with a bamboo stick. Neither we ask them to do any illegitimate job, nor will we tolerate illegitimate ‘nanga nritya’ by any official.”
“Members of Parliament, Members of Legislative Assembly, village mukhiyas, District Magistrates, Sub-Divisional Magistrates… these are all under obligation to serve the people,” said the minister who holds fisheries, animal husbandry and dairy farming portfolios. (ANI)

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Congress releases names of 3 more candidates for first phase of Assam Assembly elections

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Guwahati (Assam) [India], March 8 (ANI): Congress on Sunday released a list of three more candidates for the first phase of the upcoming Assam Assembly elections. Congress leader Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah will contest from Titabar, Bharat Ch Narah from Naoboicha and Padma Lochan Doley from Dhakuakhana.
The main opposition party had on Saturday released the first list of 40 candidates for the upcoming three-phase election for the 126-member Assam Assembly.
Polls to the 15th Legislative Assembly polls in the state will begin on March 27 as per the schedule announced by the Election Commission of India with counting slated to be held on May 2.
Leader of Opposition Debabtata Saikia will contest from Nazira, his traditional bastion and former minister Rakibul Hussain will contest from Samuguri.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Ripun Bora will contest for Gohpur seat and former minister Bismita Gogoi will fight from Khumtai seat.
Angkita, the daughter of former Assam Congress president Anjan Dutta, has won party ticket for Amguri seat.
The Congress-led grand alliance or ‘Mahajath’ comprises the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC), All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Communist Party of India (CPI), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M), the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) Liberation or CPI(ML), and the Anchalik Gana Marcha (AGM).
The Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) has also broken away from the BJP-led alliance to join the ‘Mahajath’.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had on Friday released the first list of 70 candidates for the elections. In the last assembly election in 2016, the BJP scripted history and formed the government for the first time in Assam ending Congress’ 15-year rule led by former chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
The term of the 14th legislative assembly of Assam is up to 31 May 2021. The Assembly elections for 126 seats will be held in three phases starting from March 27.
The first phase of notification is March 2 and 47 seats in 12 districts will go to the polls.
The last date of nomination March 9 and the date of poll is March 27. In the second phase, 39 constituencies in 13 districts will go to the polls on April 1.
A total of 41 constituencies in 12 districts will go to the polls on April 6. (ANI)

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SHOOTER GAURI SHEORAN WORKS AS A VOLUNTEER TO FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19

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Haryana-based international pistol shooter Gauri Sheoran, who has won several national and international medals, including golds in the 2019 South Asian Games and the 2018 World University Games, is busy these days helping people fight against Covid-19.

Daughter of Jagdeep Singh, an IAS officer currently posted as Secretary, Finance Department, Haryana, Gauri and her brother Vishwajeet Singh, also an international pistol shooter, are working as a volunteer to fight against the pandemic. They have donated Rs 2 lakh to Corona Relief Fund. They have also distributed 5,000 face masks, 2,000 sanitizers and 6,000 food packets to the needy. Gauri intends to work towards providing sports facilities and education to the weaker section and the underprivileged girls through a mission “Give Back to the Society”.

The 23-year-old Gauri is the current World University Champion. She has participated in 35 international championships and won 26 international medals.

Gauri is also a Brand Ambassador of National Child Health Program under National Health Mission, Haryana, World 10K Run, India Road Runners, VITA Haryana Dairy, etc. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of Punjab University Sports Council. After doing her Masters in Mass Communication she intends to pursue fashion along with sports.

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FATEMA AGARKAR: SHAPING YOUNGSTERS WITH SPORTS AND EDUCATION

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Fatema Agarkar talks to The Sunday Guardian about the Agarkar Centre of Excellence (ACE), an initiative she started with her husband Ajit Agarkar, and how career in sports has an investable future. Excerpts:

Q. What all did it take to convert the idea of amalgamating sports and education into the formation of ACE?

A. Given the expertise that we both have, i.e., Ajit Agarkar with sports and my journey with education, it just feels like a seamless journey. We are passionate about making sure that children benefit from being exposed to sports as opposed to how it was previously. For us, it was all about bringing expertise and experience together.

Q. What is your vision for driving the ACE initiative in 2021?

A. We want to ensure that we expose children to a lot more opportunities through sports that weren’t present in the physical world as the virtual world today has exposed children to so many opportunities. We at ACE are pro-blended learning. It is simply about optimising the virtual space.

Q. What would you like to say to the parents who think that devoting more time to sports means compromising on academics?

A. Think about sports as a career as these are the careers of today and tomorrow and if you do a comparative analysis, traditional careers are not lucrative anymore. You have to invest in it and the child has to be talented, he/she will have to have that skill and that’s why parents need to go to the right academy so the child gets mentored by the right people. Having said that, a career in sports has an investable future.

Q. What all key values do sports inculcate in children?

A. All of the life skills that we talk about in education—discipline, commitment, balance, decision-making, time-management, relationship-management, and teamwork. For me, sport is an education in itself!

Q. Do you believe that during these testing times it becomes even more important for children to engage in some form of physical activity to cope up with the stress of online classes?

A. Absolutely! There has to be a physical side to it, only because the current lifestyle is sedentary and children need to have that physical fitness, depending on their building, society, the neighbourhood but one can still focus on physical fitness at home, one doesn’t need to go to the gym to be exposed to that kind of fitness. One can simply manage on a yoga mat, it is very important and should become a part of their daily routine.

Q. Do you agree that the right coaching and mentorship from an early age along with proper sports infrastructure can give India more sportspersons?

A. Yes, we as a nation need to promote that and we need to invest in that, whether it is government or private bodies, I think it is important to consider sports as an integral part of children’s growing up years. We are from Mumbai, we work with smaller schools with limited infrastructure but we need to think beyond it, we need to plan simply because this is the future. Hence, it is important to invest in it and utilise that infrastructure. 

Q. Would you like to comment on the reform measures required to further boost the Indian sports ecosystem?

A. The hope is that a lot more people and many stakeholders think about sports as an investment, build capabilities. The pandemic taught us one thing that we were not prepared to go virtual and I am just hoping that we are better prepared for the future if we are all in it together and consider investing in better sporting facilities and infrastructure. We build capabilities and currently, we are not there and it is not just schools, it’s the government. It is that vision that says our kids can play more and for that, we will have-to-have such facilities.

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Covid gave people time to think seriously about settling down: MatchMe co-founder

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Co-founder of matchmaking services MatchMe, Tania Malhotra Sondhi, talks of the USP and success of the company and how the Covid-19 lockdown changed the dynamics of relationships.

Q: MatchMe is a five-year-old premium personalised matchmaking service which is modern and has redefined the traditional culture of arranged marriages. Share with us the vision, success and USP of MatchMe.

A: MatchMe was created with sheer passion and interest in connecting like-minded people who can come together in marriage. The idea is to thoroughly assess mutual compatibility and play cupid for those individuals who are looking to find the right partner to settle down with. Alongside being extremely personalised, we are a completely offline service that maintains utmost transparency while upholding the client’s privacy at all times. This is what makes modern young individuals who deeply value their privacy trust MatchMe to help them find a partner of their choice.

Our USP is that my co-founder Mishi and I are personally involved with every single client to understand their backgrounds, personalities and personal interests, on the basis of which we curate matches for them. Our success lies in the fact that most of the matches we have made so far resulted from first introductions made by us, which is a testimony to our accuracy when it comes to matchmaking. This can also be attributed to the fact that we believe in making our clients meet only when it is worth their time and interest. Hence, our process focuses on selective introductions. We work with our clients as friends and make the girl/boy comfortable enough for them to share their interests and preferences with us, which they sometimes shy away from with their parents.

Q: What age category do you detail and match for? What socio-economic level do folks usually come from? Is it mostly parents or those looking to find their soulmates?

A: A majority of our clients fall under the age bracket of 27-34 years, but we have also catered to clients who are in the age bracket of 40-60 years. We cater mostly to the elite and affluent, those who are well-educated, well-placed financially, and have a progressive outlook.

Speaking of the ratio between parents and youngsters, I would say it is 50:50 so far. You would be surprised to know that an increasing number of youngsters who are extremely occupied with their careers, but don’t wish to settle just for the sake of it, turn to us to help them find the right match. So, basically, we understand their requirements and do some basic background checks for them, and then make the two meet only after we are personally satisfied with both parties and are convinced that they are right for each other.

Q: In today’s times, what are the criteria that a young woman or man is looking for, in an arranged marriage? And how has it evolved in the past few decades?

A: Most youngsters, both men and women, give first priority to mutual compatibility and shared interests. The families’ backgrounds and their respective financial statuses come into the picture only after these two boxes have been checked. Some noticeable and heartening changes include the fact that arranged marriages are no longer arbitrary in nature and are fixed only when the boy and girl are both genuinely invested. Another positive change is that couples take a few months to date and get to know each other and their families don’t rush them into getting engaged soon after meeting. Indian families are also getting increasingly open to inter-caste marriages, even in cases where the girl may be slightly older than the boy, which was a big no-no earlier.

Q: How has Covid changed the dynamics of marriages and relationships? What has been your success rate till date?

A: During the Covid-19 lockdown, we saw a lot of traction and had many youngsters approach us for finding them the right match. This could be attributed to two main reasons: the primary being the fact that life, in general, had slowed down and ‘work from home’ gave people enough time to think seriously about settling down. The second reason for this was the fact that there was a sense of loneliness that many young individuals felt while being confined in their homes, which led them to understand the importance of companionship and having a life partner. We have, in fact, made several virtual introductions during the lockdown, most of which have gone on to become successful relationships/marriages. Till date, we have brought over 100 couples together in marriage.

Q: What is the revenue stream in MatchMe?

A: We do a fee-based search. Our fee starts at Rs 2 lakh and goes upwards, a part of which is taken as a membership fee, as we need a commitment from the client, for the service we provide and the time and effort we invest in finding the right match for them. The remainder of the fee is charged only when we are successful in finding a suitable match and when a marriage is fixed.

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AWAKENING THE ‘WARRIORS’ IN WOMEN

We, as women, need to question as to why we inherently believe that men are superior to women, and overcome the illusion to follow successful men and not successful women.

Avni Sablok

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Indian history is replete with evidence that women have been great warriors, playing a vibrant role in protecting the integrity of the nation as well as strengthening their positions in society. Continuing with this tradition, women’s role has been exemplary in contemporary times in all spheres of life, including the armed forces, big enterprises, among others. In this context, an exploration of instances from our history helps us examine the conditions and challenges that women continue to confront in contemporary times. Such historical instances not only provide meaningful answers to a series of unanswered questions and concepts related to gender, but also help in self-introspection of our thoughts and actions.

HISTORICAL SAGA OF WOMEN

The Indian epic, Mahabharata, is often inferred as leading to a great war for conserving the honour of a woman, Draupadi. But what is often forgotten is the series of erroneous and dishonorable conducts by mankind that finally found an outlet through a war triggered by the ‘Chirharan’ of Draupadi.

One such story in the epic was of Sikhandi, who was a Kashi princess named Amba in her previous life, born as a daughter to Drupad, the King of Panchaal. As Amba, she along with her sisters was charioted away by Bheeshma from their ‘swayambar’ to Hastinapur to marry his younger brother instead. Amba expressed her desire to marry Salwa whose garland she carried in her hands. But to her resentment both Salwa and Bheeshma’s brother refused to marry her on the pretext of embracing the former in her heart and contaminated by the touch of Bheeshma. Thus, the dignity of the women was questioned on the grounds of conduct by the men.

Amba went from one court to another seeking a champion to defend her honour since as a woman she was not allowed to fight in those times. But no one dared to stand against Bheeshma. On being reborn, Amba as Shikhandi was determined to avenge the wrongdoing.

One might believe that women are not meant to be warriors and require a man to defend her honour. This is another barrier that must be broken through a historical revelation. No doubt our men dominated the wars, especially the Kurukshetra war which was an all-men war. But there were other wars where women warriors are mentioned as a dominant force such as the wars of Kartikeya who fought with the Asuras at Kurukshetra.

Additionally, history is evidence that women fought shoulder to shoulder with men as equal participants in the struggle against the British rule. The determination and courage of famous women revolutionaries like Rani Lakshmibai, Savitribai Phule and Begum Hazrat Mahal left a lasting impression for generations to come.

Begum Hazrat Mahal, the last begum of Awadh, was considered to be more courageous than her husband, Wajid Ali Shah. Instead of bowing down to the Britishers, she chose to live with self-respect, confidence and took the courage to rebel against the British East India Company during the 1857 rebellion, even though the Nawab was exiled to Kolkata after British took over the kingdom of Awadh in 1856.

Due to her war strategy and leadership, the Britishers were confined to the Lucknow presidency. Begum Hazrat Mahal, mother, queen and a symbol of resistance, had also set an example by strengthening unity among Hindus and Muslims against the Britishers and motivated women to become warriors and join the war. As a woman, she acted as a uniting force for the society.

Despite our rich history of brave women, the role of women in Indian society over time underwent distortions and came to be exhibited as a subject of vulnerability and a symbol of weakness.

WOMEN IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD

In the contemporary era, even though the status of women has changed substantially with many setting examples of valiance and efficiency; yet, they are being categorised as vulnerable and weak, the one who needs to be protected and cared for at all times. Knowing or unknowingly, this show of mercy and apathy has sown a seed of doubt, resulting in ‘conflicting’ minds, which often is passed on from one generation to the other. Such mindsets further strengthen the ‘glass ceiling’ effect, preventing women from advancing in the workplace or choosing a male dominated profession despite being well qualified and deserving.

The barrier does not end here. Nevertheless, there are a number of examples where women have broken the ‘glass ceiling’ and achieved name and fame, though the percentage of such women is still marginal. These women have set an example by converting the famous saying: ‘There is a woman behind every successful man’ in their favour, by becoming their own strength with or without the support of a man. But the question that arises here is: Have they encouraged, rather supported and uplifted other women with immense potential as them? Have they strengthened the concept of ‘She for She’ or does ‘She is jealous of She’ still holds greater gravity in our societal mindset?

In retrospect, we need to revisit the progressive thought process of women by tracing our rich history to change stereotypical societal mindset which arrests progress of women. The fact that history is a repository of many unanswered questions related to the major role that women play in Indian society can be seen in the recent excavation of ancient civilisation site in Sinauli (Uttar Pradesh) which revealed that women warriors were skilled in sword fighting, archery and chariot riding equitable to men. This has broken the myth and established that agility of the body, the sharpness of the eye, the sharpness of the mind, dexterity of the hand, quick thinking and intelligence, which are the major factors for winning a fight, whether physical or mental, or whether by a man or a woman. One needs to rebel against the boundaries that the society has prescribed for women and begin the journey of ‘Mahaprasthan’ the path of the great departure from the orthodox, stereotype illusions of societal mindsets.

We as women need to pledge to break these myths and barriers, awaken the warriors within us, question as to why we inherently believe that men are superior to women, overcome the illusion to follow successful men and not successful women and create a platform of thoughts and expressions where ‘He for She’ as well as ‘She for She’ prevails, thus understanding gender equality through both the perspectives.

The writer is Senior Researcher, Public Policy Research Centre, (PPRC), New Delhi.

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