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(Opinion by M.G. Devasahayam - Retd Army and Indian Administrative Service Officer) A healthy nation reinforces democracy by removing bigotry, arbitrariness, injustice, hate and intolerance, which exist within the country and threaten the unity of people. The slug-fest between the Centre and States over the tableau displays during the Republic Day Parade is back again in full fury. Following the parade’s theme this year—India@75—Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala submitted their respective tableaux to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the controlling authority for the parade held on 26 January every year. The Tamil Nadu tableau proposed sketches that depict the contribution of renowned freedom fighters from the state, including VO Chidambaram, Subramania Bharathi, popularly known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar, Rani Velu Nachiyar and other women soldiers. The West Bengal tableau sought to feature Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army, whose 125th birth anniversary falls on 23 January. The tableau would have carried portraits of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Chittaranjan Das, Sri Aurobindo, Matangini Hazra, Birsa Munda and Nazrul Islam. Kerala’s tableau was of the social reformer Sree Narayana Guru and the Jatayu Park monument, the world’s biggest bird sculpture in a national park covering 65 acres over four

A state court has ordered forensic testing of old video footage about an alleged attempt to convert a minor girl who recently committed suicide in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state. Sister Sahaya Mary, a 62-year-old member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also known as Pondicherry Blue Sisters, has been arrested and sent to judicial custody after the death of the 17-year-old girl studying in class 12 at Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti in Thanjavur district falling under Kumbakonam Diocese. The nun was the warden of the school hostel where the girl resided and reportedly consumed poison on Jan. 9. She was rushed to a hospital but died on Jan. 19 while undergoing treatment. In her statement to police, the girl alleged that she took the extreme step after the hostel warden made her clean the rooms. Meanwhile, an older video surfaced on social media of the girl alleging that a nun, whom she does not name, had asked her parents’ permission to convert her to Christianity. A male voice in the background of the 47-second video asks her if her parents’ refusal was the reason behind her harassment by the warden and she replies: “It may be.” Though the

Dropping Mahatma Gandhi's favorite hymn is another move by Narendra Modi to bury India's past Until New Year’s Day, not many people other than Christians in India, Catholics among them, who attend the English Sunday services in their neighborhood church had known of the hymn Abide With Me. With Amazing Grace, it was a favorite of a select few, among them a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Today, most Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists with access to English-language media would know the hymn’s title, could have read the solemn verses and even hummed the tune. Narendra Modi, India’s hyper-nationalist and arguably xenophobic prime minister, has had an inadvertently big hand in spreading the hymn among tens of millions of its new admirers. He did this by banning it from the repertoire of the massed military bands whose brass and bagpipes played the tune with stunning impact at the Beating Retreat ceremony held down the Raisina hill at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the residence of the president of India. The Retreat ends the week-long state festivities that mark the birth of the Indian republic on Jan. 26, 1950, after a bloodstained partition and independence from Britain on Aug. 15, 1947. While Pakistan was hived off as a homeland of

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 24, 2020. Washington DC. India to remain a liberal democratic state is vital for the US interests and the US-India relationship. If India slips into a religious fundamentalist state as Pakistan or Turkey has, it will have far-reaching implications for the US interests not only across the Indian Ocean Corridor but even at home. What is taking place in India this week is a clear indication yet of where that country is headed. Prime Minister Modi removed the Hymn "Abide With Me" from India's annual Republic Day Parade this week. This hymn was part of the official annual parade for the last 73 years. It was first included in 1949 by the Indian Amry played by its band. It is considered to be Mahatma Gandhi's favorite hymn. Ever since, it has been a tradition for the army band to play it every year. It is not about whether or not a tune is removed or added in a lineup this year. It should be seen from a historical perspective. Mr. Modi's Hindu nationalist party has long been arguing that, for India to be truly independent, she should shed the remnants of colonial past and all that are associated with it - including the

By Nirmala Carvalho 62-year-old Sister Sahaya Mary, in charge of a student hostel linked to the Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti, was arrested. Behind the arrest was the death by poisoning of a 17-year-old student. Social media have amplified and distorted the story. The young girl had lost her mother eight years ago and was the victim of harassment by her stepmother, a BJP supporter. Delhi (AsiaNews) - Indian authorities have arrested a nun in charge of a hostel on charges of forced conversion, which culminated in the suicide of a minor student at the Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti, a village in the Thanjavur district (Kumbakonam diocese, Tamil Nadu). The 17-year-old girl was a guest at the centre, whose management falls under the school administration. She poisoned herself in her room on 9 January last, dying after 10 days, despite attempts at treatment. Because of the death, investigators detained 62-year-old Sister Sahaya Mary and charged her under sections 305 of the criminal code (aiding and abetting suicide of a minor), 511, 75 and 82 paragraph 1. However, in the First Information Report drawn up by police officers who managed to speak with the victim before her death, there is no

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