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Massachusetts Governor Baker Inaugurates Sikh Temple (Gurdwara) In Westborough; Says USA Land Of Opportunity, Freedom

By Deepak Arora

BOSTON, Oct 14: Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker inaugurated a Sikh temple (Gurdwara) built on a 37-acre site in Westborough here on Saturday amidst chanting of "Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal" (whosoever chants the name of the Lord, gets abundant bliss).

Speaking to the congregation at the Gurdwara, where people from different faiths had gathered, Governor Baker praised the Sikh religion for its virtues and services to the community.

He said "More than anything the First Amendment gives that freedom to practice your faith is fundamental to every religion to be part of American experience. Your particular faith, as I understand it, sits comfortably with others that aspire to be about equality, about virtues, about community, about work, about faith and about commitment to one another."

The Governor said "For me the chance to be here today and share this opening with you and speak on behalf of people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as to how much we appreciate your presence, your work, your culture, your faith and your belief in one another."

Governor Baker said "there is very simple phrase in Latin 'e pluribus Unum' that means 'Out of many one'. That has been from the very beginning. That has what the United States has strived to be -- Out of many one. Some days are better than others. We have positive moments and negative moments. We are not perfect. But I know that I speak for the people of Commonwealth, when I say how much we value the notion that it is the land of opportunity and freedom and we are all children of God -- brothers and sisters."

Besides Governor Baker, the others who graced the occasion were Congressman Jim McGovern; State Representatives Hannah E. Kane and Kimberly Ferguson; Sharief Lewis G Evangelidis; District Director and General Counsel Kathleen Polanowicz and SALDEF Director Satnam Singh.

While Gurdwara Secretary Amandeep Singh welcomed the chief guest and other dignitaries, Dr Jang Bahadur Singh introduced the Governor.

In his introductory remarks, Harvard scholar and Founder & CEO of Experfy big data management, Dr. Harpreet Singh, spoke about Sikhism.

Soon after the Governor concluded his speech, Amar Sawhney introduced Congressman Jim McGovern.

In his remarks, Congressman Jim McGovern said he was struck by the incredible similarities between the pillars of Sikh beliefs and the Constitution of the United States. "This country was founded on the notion that people should live honestly, work hard, treat everyone equally, be generous to the less fortunate and serve others. As I understand it, Sikhism is the embodiment of those beliefs."

He said "the correlation between the focus on doing good works rather than merely carrying out rituals and our Founding Fathers concept that citizens of a country should act rather than just talk about action, strengthens my belief that this country was founded on strong ethical ground that was forged by members of your religion centuries before the founding of this country."

Congressman McGovern said "it is that strong ethical ground that I believe our country needs right now and I know that the positive community based lessons that will be taught here to adults and children alike will serve not only the Sikh community well but the American community as well."

The Congressman said "I am told that the word Sikh means disciple or student. We can look to the Sikh community as an example for all of us to be lifetime learners.... Learners of tolerance, gratitude, service and hard work.."

He said "These are the lessons that we all need to take to heart to bring out country out of the difficult days that we are now experience and into our next chapter as a people and a nation."

Presenting the vote of thanks, Gurdwara President Malkit Singh Gill said Sikhism symbolises Amrican Values. He urged the Governor to declare April 13 as the Sikh Heritage Day.

Governor Baker was also presented with a Saropa (ceremonial robe) and a ceremonial sword by Manohar Singh Grewal and Jot Singh Khalsa.

Gurdwara Youth President Simran Soin spoke about the history and values of Sikhism.

Governor Baker was also presented with a Saropa (ceremonial robe) and a ceremonial sword by Manohar Singh Grewal and Jot Singh Khalsa.

 

It may be mentioned that Manohar Singh Grewal and three others had establish the New England Sikh Study Circle (NESSC) way back in 1968. But the group didn’t have a temple where they could congregate.

Grewal, who immigrated from India in 1963, traveled around in a van, holding services in homes and furthering the group’s mission of spiritual growth and community activism. The NESSC opened its first temple in Milford about 30 years ago.

Gurdwara Secretary Amandeep Singh informed that the new Gurdwara has a built up area of 21,000 square feet amidst the 37 acres of land. The land was purchased in 2011. Construction for the new Gurdwara began in March 2014 and cost around US $ 7 million. It is one of the four Gurdwaras in the State. The temple has 14 classrooms, a library, a conference room and an apartment for the Granthi.

US Withdraws From UNESCO

By Deepak Arora

WASHINGTON D.C., Oct 12: The Department of State has notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO.

This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO, according to Heather Nauert, Department Spokesperson.

The United States indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

Pursuant to Article II(6) of the UNESCO Constitution, U.S. withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018. The United States will remain a full member of UNESCO until that time, added the spokesperson.

Although the withdrawal decision came from the Trump dispensation, it was the Obama administration that began to distance Washington from the Paris-headquartered Unesco as far back as 2011 when it cut off funding the organization after it admitted Palestine Authority as a full member. Consequently, the US lost its vote in the organization in 2013.

Matters worsened in July this year when Unesco declared the ancient town of Hebron in Israeli-occupied West Bank as a Palestinian World Heritage Site, enraging Tel Aviv.

Although Unesco's mandate covers education and science, it is best known for its World Heritage program, which helps preserve cultural sites of import around the globe - including 36 sites in sixth ranked India, out of 1073 sites across the world.

The US itself is ranked tenth with only 23 World Heritage Sites, of which a dozen are natural heritage sites such as national parks. Italy (53), China (52), Spain (46), France (43), Germany (42), all have more heritage sites than the US, giving Washington little incentive to invest or maintain leadership of the organization, where it is also-ran among a pack of European nations. Even Mexico (34) has more heritage sites than the US.

Sex with minor wife is rape: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI, Oct 11: India's Supreme Court on Wednesday criminalised sex between a man and his underage wife provided the woman files a complaint within a year.

The court said the exception in the rape law that allowed a man to have sex with his minor wife aged between 15 and 18 was arbitrary and violated the Constitution. It also said the Exception 2 in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code was contrary to the philosophy of other statutes and violated the bodily integrity of a girl child.

The rape law and the protection of children from sexual offences act (Pocso) disagreed on the age of consent.

Section 375 of the IPC says sex with a girl who is below 18 is rape but Exception 2 allowed a man to have sex with his underage wife even without her consent.

Under Pocso, the age of consent is 18 years.

The exception was also contrary to the child marriage act that puts 18 as the age of marriage for girls and 21 for boys.

The government had defended the IPC exception in the Supreme Court, saying the provision was meant to protect the institution of marriage.

India has 23 million child brides and criminalising the “consummation of the marriages” as rape would not be appropriate, the Centre had said during a hearing in August, opposing a petition that wanted 18 to be the age of consent for all girls.

It also said child marriages were a reality in India where economic and educational development was uneven. “The institution of marriage must be protected. Otherwise, the children from such marriages will suffer,” the Centre said.

An NGO Independent Thought, which contested the exception, told the court in August that the inconsistency had split girls below the age of 18 into two categories.

“One, those who are not married and for them, the age of sexual consent is 18. Then there are those who are married and a husband can have sexual intercourse with his wife if she is above the age of 15, irrespective of her consent,” it said during a hearing.

The petition called for uniformity in defining the age of consent. The NGO’s counsel Gaurav Agrawal said Section 375 (2) IPC was arbitrary because it discriminated against a girl child who is married off before 18. The rape law made even consensual sex between a man and a minor girl an offence. “Then why should a girl of the same age suffer,” he had said.

Accepting the argument, the court on Wednesday struck down Section 375 (2) of IPC.

Lakshmi Mittal donates $25 million to Harvard University

BOSTON, Oct 11: Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal has donated $25 million to the prestigious Harvard University with an aim to increase engagement with South Asian countries, including India.

The donation will establish an endowed fund for the South Asia Institute at the university.

The institute spearheads Harvard's engagement with South Asian countries, including India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as well as diaspora populations from these countries, Tarun Khanna announced when India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley came to deliver the lecture at the Harvard.

As a result of the endowment from the Mittal Foundation, Harvard's South Asia Institute would be called as Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute at Harvard University.

Founded in 2003, the South Asia Initiative became a University-wide interdisciplinary institute in 2010 under the leadership of its current faculty director, Indian-American Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School.

"We are so grateful for the Mittal family's support and what it will enable us to learn and share — across the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities — and the many people and institutions it will allow us to engage," said Khanna.

"International centers like the South Asia Institute at Harvard University serve as a vital conduit between the University and the world we study," said Harvard President Drew Faust.

"The generous support from the Mittal family is a testament to both the important work being done by this community of scholars and students and the continuing impact it will have in the region," Faust added.

South Asia has played a dynamic and influential role in the development of our world since the very first civilisations, said 67-year-old Mittal, chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel company.

"Ensuring that we fully understand"Harvard is one of the world's greatest learning institutions, with a unique ability to facilitate dialogue and drive thinking and progress," he said.

The Mittal family has long supported educational endeavours and public policy development in India as a means of positioning the country — and the region — for future success, the university said. its history and unique dynamics is a critical enabler in helping to shape a successful future," he added.

As someone who was born in India, the long-term prosperity of India and its neighbouring countries "matters a great deal to me and my family," Mittal told Harvard Gazette in an interview.

ICAN awarded 2017 Nobel Prize in Peace

OSLO, Oct 6: The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of non-governmental organisations from over 100 countries around the globe.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee honoured the Geneva-based group “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

ICAN has been the leading civil society actor in the effort to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in Oslo on October 6.

The committee emphasised that “the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states”. It said the 2017 Peace Prize called upon nuclear-armed states to initiate negotiations to gradual elimination of the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons .

ICAN had in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour, it added.

ICAN describes itself as a coalition of grass roots non-government groups in more than 100 nations. It began in Australia and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007. “We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

ICAN leader Beatrice Fihn was delighted with the news that the organisation is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, awards committee head Reiss-Andersen said.

Ms. Fihn told reporters, “We can’t threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security. That’s not how you build security.”

Ms. Fihn said the group had received a phone call minutes before the official announcement was made. But she thought it was “a prank” and she didn’t believe it until she heard the name of the group during the Peace Prize announcement in Oslo.

A spokeswoman for ICAN said the organisation was overjoyed at winning the Peace Prize. “As you can imagine, we are elated. This is great news," said Daniela Varano. “It's great recognition for the work that the campaigners did throughout the years and especially the Hibakusha,” she said, referring to survivors of atom bombs in Japan. “Their testimony was critical, was crucial and for such an amazing success.”

ICAN said in a statement on its Facebook page, “This award shines a needed light on the path the ban treaty provides towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Before it is too late, we must take that path. This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror. The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more. If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.”

In July, 122 nations adopted a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons but nuclear-armed states, including the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France stayed out of the talks.

 



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