12 July, 2009

Govt should clear the mystery about Shastri's death: family

Press Trust of India, 11th July, 2009

With the government refusing to share classified information under RTI about former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's death, his family has demanded that all doubts be cleared on the mystery shrouding it.

"His death was a very big shock to us and the entire nation. I was just 16 years old then. But I remember his body had darkish blue spots on the chest, abdomen and back. My mother and we suspected he died under mysterious circumstances," Shastri's son Sunil elaborated.

He said doubts about Shastri's death persists in the minds of millions across the country.

"I personally feel Shastri was not just a great leader but a national treasure. He was a lovable person who many feel was the best Prime Minister India had. The government should come out with the facts about his death and close the chapter once and for all," Sunil added.

After Shastri's death in Tashkent, USSR, on January 11, 1966 soon after signing the Tashkent Pact with Pakistan, his wife Lalita had alleged that he was poisoned to death.

A query was posed under the Right to Information Act(RTI) about his death but the government has refused to part with classified information on the issue.

Sunil Shastri said there was no reason for the government to hide facts about his father's death.

"There is a doubt in our minds about his death. Wherever I go, people ask me about his mysterious death. The government should not hesitate in sharing the information about his death," he added.

Recalling the day when his father's body was brought to India, Sunil said the family's reaction was that the death was "mysterious and raised doubts".

The Prime Minister's Office, while refusing information under the RTI Act on the cause and circumstances of Shastri's death, has said revealing these details could harm India's foreign relations and would violate Parliamentary Privilege.

Anuj Dhar, author of 'CIA's Eye on South Asia' had filed the RTI plea on the issue.

The government has admitted that no post-mortem was conducted on Shastri. However, his personal doctor R N Chugh and some Russian doctors conducted a medical examination.

The Russian butler attending on Shastri at the time of his death was arrested for suspected poisoning but released later.

It was maintained that Shastri had died of cardiac arrest but his family insisted he was poisoned.

The PMO has stated that it has a document on Shastri's death but has refused to divulge the details.

09 July, 2009

Akal Takht bars gay marriages in gurdwaras

Times of India, 9th July, 2009

Even as Amrit and Jeeta - possibly the first gay couple in India to marry after the Delhi High Court read down section 377 that penalizes sex between homosexuals —spent a day in marital bliss, an uncomfortable and angry Sikh clergy issued directions to all gurdwara management committees of the world to not solemnize such unions ‘‘as it is against Gurmat and has no place in Sikhism.’’

The censure came after a meeting at the Akal Takht secretariat on Wednesday of Sikh high priests, among them the jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Gurbachan Singh, jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, and Jathedar of Takht Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Tarlochan Singh.

“Gay marriages are not acceptable in Sikhism and have no place in Gurmat,” said Gurbachan Singh, adding that the five Sikh high priests have issued strict directions to all gurdwaras across the globe to abide by the diktat.

‘‘The heads of other religions and faiths also have a similar opinion on gay relations,’’ he said, finding brotherhood in the group of enraged Hindu, Christian and Muslim leaders who have condemned the court’s rethink on the anti-gay section of IPC.

Harnam Singh Khalsa, head of Damdami Taksal, too, echoed the anti-homosexual chorus, protesting India’s inclusion in the list of 150 countries, including South Africa, China, Nepal, Australia, Canada and Argentina, where homosexuality is legal. ‘‘Gay marriages,’’ he said, ‘‘are not acceptable and we strongly oppose it. We may even begin an agitation against such relations.’’

Going a step further, Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal has asked the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the state government to take legal steps that would prevent gay marriages in the state ‘‘which would only lead to moral degradation in society.’’

01 July, 2009

After Deoband, other Muslim leaders condemn homosexuality

Times of India, 1st July, 2009

Amid government moves for a re-look at criminalising homosexuality, several Muslim leaders have said any attempt to legally permit unnatural sex is an attack on religious and moral values.

"Legalisation of homosexuality is an attack on Indian religious and moral values," over a dozen prominent Muslim religious leaders said in a statement.

The statement has been endorsed by Maulana Jalaluddin Omari, President of the Jamaat-e Islami Hind, Maulana Muhammad Salim Qasimi, Rector of Darul Uloom Waqf, Deoband, Maulana Mufti Mukarram Ahmad, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Fatehpuri, among others.

"We are shocked to see reports in the media that the Union government is considering the repeal of Section 377 of the IPC, which means making homosexuality legal," the statement said on Tuesday.

It said that homosexuality is a sin and a social evil which will only lead to societal disintegration and break-up of the family.

Appealing to the government not to be influenced by the "decadent trends of the Western culture" and not to give in to the demands of a minuscule minority, the statement said the government should not test the patience of the silent vast majority of the country which abhors such behaviour.

A prominent body of Muslim community Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind had earlier hit out at the government's proposed move, saying the repeal of the section would create "sexual anarchy" in the society.

"The section should stay as its repealing would result in sexual anarchy in the society. Those opposing the section are influenced by Western culture. Those who argue for independence do not realise that independence should have its limits," Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind spokesperson Abdul Hameed Noamani said.

Leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband had earlier also opposed the Centre's move to repeal a controversial section, saying unnatural sex is against the tenets of Islam.

"Homosexuality is offence under Shariat Law and haram (prohibited) in Islam," Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Darul Uloom Deoband Maulana Abdul Khalik Madrasi has said.

The reaction came after reports that Centre was likely to convene a meeting soon to evolve a consensus on repealing a controversial section of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality.