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COMMUNITY | News in Brief:

BAYVP Opens the Door of Shreemaya Krishna Dhaam | Temple Marks Moorties’ Arrival Anniversary | Defamation Condemned | NRI Property | New Book | Abraham Feted | New Executive Director | Protest against Malaysia

BAYVP Opens the Door of Shreemaya Krishna Dhaam

Women in colorful ceremonial Gujarati dress in a procession for a religious ceremony on a opening ceremony of Shreemaya Krishna Dhaam in Milpitas, Calif. [PRAVIN DESAI photo]

The Bay Area Youth Vaishnav Pariwar Feb. 10 opened the door of Shreemaya Krishna Dhaam to devotees in the San Francisco Bay area.

This temple will present speeches by the Vaishnava Gurus and mark various traditional Hindu festivities with dances and dramas performed by youth and devotees from various part of Bay Area including the Silicon Valley.

Shreemaya Krishna Dam will be the hub of weekly family activities with music, dance and Gujarati language classes for children, youth and various activities for seniors. BAYVP vice-president Saumil Shah said, “Apart from being a socio-spiritual haven, the Shreemaya Krishna Dhaam will bring true Vaishnava value and culture to life on the West Coast of American soil to preserve our Vaishnava value in this form before it gets lost due to the onslaught of Western culture.”

Vaishnava spiritual chief Jagadguru Shrimad Vallabhacharyaji — also known as Shri Mahaprabhuji — said the total ‘Bhakti’ or devotion to the Lord paves the path to transcendence or Nirvana. According to Hindu philosophy, such devotion is seen in Radha’s yearning for Krishna as cowherd girl or gopi. The kind of selfless love of Radha represents real Bhakti.

Bay Area Youth Vaishnava Pariwar is a non-profit, registered charitable institution in the San Francisco Bay Area whose main objective is to preserve and encourage the development of Indian culture and heritage. It does so by organizing and facilitating spiritual discourses, kathas and cultural events integrated to the principles of Pushtimargiya Vaishnava Sects which shares the vision and objectives of service to humanity is service to God.
— Pravin Desai


Temple Marks Moorties’ Arrival Anniversary

Temple priest Narayan Swamiji, Selva, and Revathi Maruthi at the festivities at Balaji Temple in Sunnyvale, Calif.

The Balaji Temple in Sunnyvale, Calif., held a three-day program Feb. 8-10 to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the arrival from India of the Sri Lakshmi and Balaji moorthies. Celebrations began on the evening of Feb. 8 with kalesha puja, punyavachana, diksha, invocation of Sri Lakshmi and Balaji, followed by bhajans, arati and mahaprasadam.

Many devotees chose to take diksha for the three days which meant a vow to chant the Lord’s mantra while maintaining spiritual behavior. Vice President Ashok Chawathe spoke about upcoming events and temple service opportunities.

On Feb. 9 abhishekam of both Sri Lakshmi and Balaji was performed. The morning began with priests and devotees ardently chanting the Suprabhatam to awaken the Lord. Abhishekam of milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, mango, kesari, haldi and kum kum followed. Temple priest Narayana Swamiji performed the abhishekam, assisted by Manoj Kumar and Vittala Das. Vedic chanting of the prayers filled the temple for hours. Sri Vidya, Aruna Sridharan sang bhajans.

At the end of the puja N. Swamiji recounted the story of Srinivasa Nayaka and how he became Purandara Das.

The three-day anniversary celebrations concluded Feb. 10 evening with a puja attended by many devotees. The 1008 Names of Sri Balaji were chanted, arati was sung joyfully by the devotees and everyone enjoyed the mahaprasadam that had been sponsored for the entire three days by Ram Gopal of Cupertino Bakery.

More information about the temple is available on the Internet at www.balajitemple.net.


Defamation Condemned

Arun Gandhi

South Asian organizations and other groups have condemned the forced resignation and campaign of defamation against peace activist Arun Gandhi by sending a strongly worded statement to the University of Rochester and the Washington Post blog at which Gandhi posted an article. The statement was drafted by Dr. Sunaina Maira, associate professor at the University of California, Davis, and endorsed by South Asians organizations and community members. The statement condemns the manner in which Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and the founder/director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester, was forced to resign from his position.

Gandhi, who has worked for years to promote non-violence and inter-faith understanding, sparked controversy after writing a two-paragraph commentary titled “Jewish Identity Can't Depend on Violence.” Posted at “On Faith,” a Washington Post blog, the article criticized Israeli militarism and the misuse of the tragedy of the Holocaust to justify violence against another group and suggested that this was undermining support for Israeli policies. While Gandhi issued a public apology for his “poorly worded” comments, he was quickly denounced by pro-Israel groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

“Gandhi's resignation makes it clear that he was the latest casualty of the powerful and highly organized pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. that immediately deems any and all criticism of Israel's policies as anti-Semitic,” noted Maira. “It is shameful that groups such as the Hindu American Foundation who claim to promote tolerance and understanding would support such blatant censorship of Gandhi's grandson. Perhaps they choose to ignore Mahatma Gandhi's statement in 1946 that Jewish settlers have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism. “

Friends of South Asia endorsed the statement and FOSA was joined by over 100 individuals and 16 organizations in endorsing the statement drafted by Maira.


NRI Property

A very pressing problem relating to NRI/PIO property investments, scams and associated issues was discussed and deliberated at a seminar at the GOPIO Convention 2008 in Delhi last January, according to a press release from the Global Organization for People of Indian Origin. A resolution on investments in properties and disputes was presented to the Government of India with a request to enact legislation to designate fast-track courts for NRIs/PIOs for the speedy settlement of the NRI’s property issues.

The resolution was also published in the GOPIO Bulletin Feb 5, 2008 and in many newspapers serving the global Indian diaspora. Since the publication, GOPIO has been flooded with enquiries and heart-rending stories of NRIs/PIOs who have lost their property and/or are in courts to recover them.

In view of the gravity of the situation, the GOPIO has constituted a task force committee to work with the Indian government to take timely steps to amend relevant laws to protect investments of NRIs/PIOs who have already invested or are planning to invest in India. The members of the committee are as follows:

Lord Diljit Rana, (committee chairman), (e-mail: dsrana@andrashouse.co.uk), U.K.; Prof. Subhash C. Sharma (committee co-chair), (e-mail: subsharma@verizon.net), U.S.; M.M. Mahehshwari, (committee co-chair), (e-mail: m_wari@yahoo.com), U.S., Barjinder Sodhi, GOPIO Berlin chapter president), Germany; Ved Prakash Sharma, president, bar association, Delhi; P.H. Parekh, president, Supreme Court Bar Association; Jagdish Vatsa, advocate, High Court, Delhi, and Ranjit Malhotra, advocate, Chandigarh.

Committee co-chair Subhash C. Sharma will coordinate all activities of the task force. Members of the Indian diaspora are encouraged to communicate with Sharma by email at subsharma@verizon.net.


New Book

Anu Peshawaria with her book “The Immigrant’s Dream.”

Anu Peshawaria recently launched her new book, “The Immigrant’s Dream,” according to a press release. The book was released by Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi Jan. 10, according to a press release.

The book was also launched in Chandigarh by Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal.

Punjab has a record number of horror stories of NRI fraudulent marriages have been reported in Punjab. Providing support to these women, Anu has put down ten such cases, the laws and the rights that women can take refuge, in her book.

“In the past 10 years, I have noticed that the number of immigration related cases in the U.S. have increased drastically. Every other day, an Indian immigrant woman married to an NRI comes to my office to fight abuse. They are usually cheated and trapped in bad marriages. I help these women and now I have written the book to spread awareness among people at the grassroots that one must be very careful while choosing s a husband for their daughter and not to fall for the dollar bait,” she said.

Anu Peshawaria has written “The Immigrant’s Dream” in English and plans to have it translated in Punjabi, Hindi in another six months.

The Sixth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora, focused on the increasing cases of exploitation of Indian women after getting married overseas.

The key focus, said Vayalar Ravi, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, would be how to help Indian women avoid getting exploited after getting married overseas. This year around 1,200 delegates from 43 countries met to discuss how to bring about change.


Abraham Feted

GOPIO-CT officials with Congressman Christopher Shays (l-r): Biru Sharma, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Bhom Banta, GOPIO-CT president Sangeeta Ahuja and Shays.

GOPIO-CT, the Connecticut chapter of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, organized an event Feb. 15 at the Stamford Hampton Inn to honor GOPIO chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, who was recognized last month by the Indian government with Pravasi Bharatiya Samman presented by Indian President Pratibha Patil at the conclusion of the sixth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Jan. 9. Earlier Jan. 4, Abraham was honored with Bharatvanshi Gaurav Award from Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Nyas (Trust for International Cooperation).

The chief guest at the Stamford program was Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. GOPIO-CT president Sangeeta Ahuja welcomed guests and said these awards to Dr. Abraham brought recognition to the Indian community organizations including GOPIO.

Dr. Parmatma Saran, professor of sociology at City University of New York, said that he had known Abraham since his student days at Columbia in the early 1970s and that Abraham was responsible for bringing all diverse sections of our community together under one platform. “Pravasi Bharatiya Samman was long due for Dr. Abraham and I am pleased that the Government of India finally recognized Dr. Abraham’s contribution to the global NRI/PIO movement,” Saran added.

Jai Bhagawan Gupta, trustee and treasurer of the Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad Foundation said that his organization was very pleased to honor Dr. Abraham.

Shays congratulated Dr. Abraham. “For over three decades you have diligently worked to create organizations dedicated to bringing Indian communities together both locally and internationally. Your role in improving relationship between the US and India is commendable and you have impacted countless lives through your efforts to make the world a better place,” Shays said.


New Executive Director

The Asian Law Caucus, the nation's oldest civil rights organization focused on protecting the rights of Asian Pacific Islanders, has announced the appointment of Mina Titi Liu as its new executive director.

“We are very excited.” said Monty Agarwal, chair of the board of directors. “Mina Titi Liu not only brings experience, but a vision that will help take the ALC's long and impressive history of protecting civil rights into the future. She will be a creative, dynamic and thoughtful addition to the Caucus community.”

Currently Titi is Garvey Schubert Barer Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she has studied the role of public interest litigation in social movements in China and the Asian region. She will assume her new role as the ALC executive director as of June 1 after completing her commitment there.

“I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to work with ALC's talented staff and to build on ALC's rich legacy of work in the API community,” Titi said. “It feels like a kind of homecoming, to be returning to California, where I grew up, and to be working on the social justice issues that most affect my own community here in the U.S., after many years of working abroad.”

A graduate of Harvard Law, Titi brings both international experience and a deeply held concern for the threats to civil rights here in the United States.

She worked for seven years in Ford Foundation's Beijing office supporting the development of nongovernmental organizations and leading two initiatives in China. The first initiative, titled “Reform of Criminal Justice Administration,” promoted increased protections for criminal defendants' human rights including freedom from arbitrary detention, access to counsel and the right to a fair trial. The second initiative, titled “Protecting the Rights of Vulnerable Groups,” focused on enhancing the legal representation for vulnerable individuals and groups including women, children, laborers and the elderly.

More information on the Asian Law Caucus is available at www.asianlawcaucus.org.


Protest against Malaysia

Several dozens Americans of diverse religious and ethnic origins, including several Hindus of Malaysian descent, gathered in front of the Malaysian Consulate in Los Angeles, Feb. 16 to protest discriminatory policies of the Malaysian government and the ongoing detention of the leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force. The rally, co-sponsored by the Hindu American Foundation, a U.S. based human rights group, was held just one day after another peaceful demonstration was brutally ended with tear gas, chemical laced water cannons and the arrests of 160 Malaysian Hindus, including children, in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

“The Malaysian government's policies vis a vis Indians is nothing less than ethnic apartheid,” said Samir Kalra, a recent addition to the HAF executive council. “The increasingly brutal repression, rampant discrimination and neglect of the Indian minority, lack of basic human rights — including that of peaceful assembly — enshrined under Malaysia's constitution and international law, and a creeping Islamization of an ostensibly secular civil society can no longer be ignored.”

The HAF protest rally co-sponsored in Los Angeles coincided with similar rallies held in New York, London, Dublin, Brussels, Melbourne, Auckland, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Singapore, and Jakarta over the weekend. The “rose rally” held in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, where demonstrators carried roses, was to symbolize the ethnic Indian struggle for equal rights and for an end to policies of religious apartheid favoring Muslim Malays.



Click here to read in PDF format

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BOLLYWOOD: Jodhaa Akbar
RECIPE: Paneer Tikka

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