About –the stories of the world this week, 25 September to 1 October 2022: All kinds of tensions – religious, nature blowing, stealing land, a country making a right-turn, homeland surgical operations, and a classic Tamil novel becomes a movie and hits the cinema screen.
The protests in Iran on the killing of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, while in Detention by the Morality Police, over improper wearing of the hijab-headscarf continues. Over 70 people have been killed in the unrest and thousands arrested. Women cutting off their hair and burning the hijab has become the signature of the protests against the stringent Islamic Dress Code. Iranian Authorities are struggling to put-down this bold defiance, uncovering after quite a long time, in Iran. And the excessive force being used probably unveils how things went wrong in the first place.
In the United States, a force of nature, Hurricane Ian made landfall along the southwestern coast of Florida as a powerful Category-4 storm. It’s one of the strongest hurricanes in recent times to hit the west coast of the Florida Peninsula. The extremely dangerous conditions unleashed by the Hurricane including catastrophic floods, and life-threatening storm surges continued as the storm advanced inland. In a second landfall it battered South Carolina after leaving a trail of destruction across Florida.
Leicester is a city in England’s East Midlands region close to the River Soar, where the National Forest area ends. And it is one of its oldest cities with a deep history. Leicester Cathedral, which has stood for over 900 years in the heart of the city is where Britain’s King Richard III was reinterred in 2015.
Leicester has a population over 4.5 Lakhs with a demography of Whites being the largest ethnic group at over 50%, followed by Asians at about 37%.
Recent Hindu-Muslim violence in Leicester caused shock and outrage, and was alarming as the city is known for its diversity, its multiculturisim roots, and has been a model of cohesion for decades. And such unrest is extremely rare. Some tensions in Leicester had been brewing for a while, but it had never got to the point of confrontation before.
The recent disturbances in Leicester first began last month after an India-Pakistan cricket match. On 28 August, cricket fans from Hindu and Muslim communities clashed after India beat Pakistan in the Asia Cup T20 tournament in Dubai. Eight people were arrested on suspicion of assault and violent disorder.
In the weeks following the incident, several disturbances in East Leicester led to more arrests. The tensions reached boiling point on 17th September when a group of Hindus peacefully marched through Green Lane Road, which has predominantly Muslim-owned businesses, chanting, “Jai Shri Ram (Hail Lord Ram)”. Then fights broke out, bottles were thrown, property was smashed and a religious flag was pulled off a Hindu temple in the area. There were even roars that this is a ‘Muslim only area’ and how dare others enter. Over last weekend, multiple retaliatory marches and protests further escalated tensions.
However, this may not be as straightforward as a sporting feud that has got out of hand: It seems like there were simmering tensions before this cricket match. A pointer is an incident which occurred before the 28th August incident in which a young Muslim man said that he was assaulted by a Hindu gang. No one has been charged, but the allegations alone appear to have been enough to stoke further tensions. It is learnt that particular pieces of misinformation such as this fuelled tension in the run-up to the worst of the disorder on the weekend of 17-18 September. One false story was referenced several times.
“Today my 15 years daughter was nearly kidnapped,” read a post uploaded on Facebook, supposedly by a concerned father. “Three Indian boys got out and asked her if she was Muslim. She said yes and one guy tried to grab her.” The post was liked hundreds of times, not on Facebook but on Twitter after a community activist, tweeted the family’s story on 13 September. He also shared a message from the police, which he said was “confirming the incident which took place on 12 September”. But there had been no kidnap attempt. A day later, Leicestershire Police issued a statement after investigating and stated that the incident did not take place at all. The community activist deleted his posts and said the attempted abduction had not happened and that his initial version had been based on conversation with the family making the allegation. But damage had already been done and this false kidnap claim kept being regurgitated on other social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Instagram. Messages forwarded many times over were initially taken by some as the truth. On Instagram, profiles – some with hundreds of thousands of followers – shared screenshots of the original post and allegedly accused a Hindu man of being behind the ‘failed abduction’.
Days later a mob of more than 200 people, mostly Muslims, attacked Durga Bhawan Hindu Centre in Smethwick, Birmingham, and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ slogans. And following this an Islamist group shared posts calling for a demonstration outside the Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir in Wembley. This is the latest in a series of incidents targeting Hindus in the United Kingdom in recent days.
In a video posted on Twitter, an Islamist could be seen provoking Muslims in the city, calling Hindus gangsters, and mocking the religion.
Hindu-hatred and Hindu-phobia seem to be the new words in Town.
Tensions are rising in Russia. Last week, Russia kicked off a five-day referendum in the occupied Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine. The question on the ballot: “Do you wish to secede from Ukraine?” It comes as Russia announced a troop surge of 300,000 and its first draft since World War II amid mounting nuclear concerns. Meanwhile, thousands fled the country to escape the draft.
Ukrainians report that Russian soldiers are going door-to-door, coercing people ‘under a gun barrel’ to vote in favour of annexation. When ‘The Results’ were announced there was no surprise – all four occupied regions of Ukraine voted to join Russia.
Ukraine and Western countries including the US have condemned the vote as a sham. The United Nations Security Council said it will never accept the results and the four regions will remain part of Ukraine.
That’s a sham referendum for sure, but late this week Russia went ahead and declared these territories as Annexed to Russia, and henceforth people living in them are Russian citizens. That’s cold-blooded land-grabbing.
Italy: Right Turn
Italy is turning in the ‘right’ direction. The ultra-conservative Brothers of Italy Party led by Giorgia Meloni won 26% of the vote and along with coalition partners, The League – led by Matteo Salvini (8.8%) and Forza Italia – led by Silvio Berlusconi (8.1%) secured a clear majority in Parliament. Together with a smaller party representing less than 1% of the vote their right-wing coalition obtained 43.8% of the total votes. All this translates into 237 seats in the 400 seat Chamber of Deputies-called the Lower House, and 115 seats in the 200 seat Senate of the Republic – called the Upper House. Their main rival, the centre-left Democratic Party won 19% of the vote with 84 seats in the Chamber and 44 seats in the Senate.
Giorgia Meloni, 45, is all set to become Italy’s first female Prime Minister leading the most far-right government since the fascist era of the Second World War. It’s expected to take weeks for a new government to be formed. And President, Sergio Mattarella will have to nominate her, which is expected to happen during the month of October.
Meloni entered Italy’s crowded political scene in 2006 and co-founded the Brothers of Italy in 2012, a party whose agenda is rooted in Euroskepticism and anti-immigration policies. In the last election, in 2018, the party won just 4.5% of the vote, but its popularity has soared in recent years.
Meloni differs from coalition partner leaders on the issue of Ukraine. Whereas Berlusconi and Salvini have both said they would like to review sanctions against Russia because of their impact on the Italian economy, Meloni has been steadfast in her support for defending Ukraine. She is deeply conservative, openly anti-LBGT, and has threatened to place same sex unions, which were legalised in Italy in 2016, under review. She has also called abortion a ‘tragedy’ raising fears for the future of women’s rights in the country.
Meloni has a daughter with her partner Andrea Giambruno, a journalist who works for Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV channel.
A Cool Homeland Surgical Operation
The Popular Front of India (PFI) is an Indian Political Organization founded in 2006 with the merger of the Karnataka Forum of Dignity (KFD), the National Development Front (NDF) of Kerala- established in Kerala two years after the demolition of the Babri Masjid to protect the interests of the Muslim community – and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai of Tamilnadu. It was formed to counter Hindu groups and engages in radical and exclusivist style of Muslim minority politics. It is said to be a resurrection of the banned, terrorist Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and affiliate of the Indian Mujahideen and also has links to the Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangalesh (JMB)- another proscribed organisation. That’s danger written all over. The PFI has various wings such as National Women’s Front and the Campus Front of India.
The PFI’s stated purpose is to establish Islamic rule in India.
Last week in a superbly planned surgical operation called ‘Operation Octopus’, India’s National Investigative Agency conducted large-scale raids in the ‘tentacle premises’ of PFI and its affiliates across the country on charges of terror funding and money laundering. And at the end of which about 100 PFI leaders and activists suddenly found themselves behind bars.
The raids had the stamp of good homework and not many had an inkling of what was coming up. It was conducted in a flawless manner with the entire PFI top leadership caught unawares and picked up in single swoop – meticulous planning by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and ‘India’s James Bond’, National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.
This week, the Indian Government, loaded with solid evidence used the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to declare that the PFI and its associates as an unlawful organisation and banned it with immediate effect, for a period of five years. PFI and its associates have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are against the integrity, sovereignty, and security of the country. And have the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony of the country, as well as support militancy in the country.
A notification to the effect was issued by MHA, on 27 September. Eight associate organisations of PFI have been declared unlawful associations: Rehab India Foundation(RIF), Campus Front of India(CFI), All India Imams Council(AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Org (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Jr. Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.
The MHA has also revealed that some of the PFI’s founding members are the leaders of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and had connections with ‘Global Terrorist Groups like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)” and that the PFI and its associates have been working ‘covertly to increase radicalisation of the Muslim community’ by promoting a sense of insecurity.
Investigations showed that the PFI and its cadres have been consistently engaging in violent, subversive, and terrorist acts, including chopping off the limb of a Malayalam college professor, and murder of several persons in the States of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu; cold-blooded killings of people associated with organisations espousing other faiths; obtaining explosives to target prominent people and places and destruction of public property.
Looks like the Octopus has got itself a prize catch!
Perhaps it was the music that stirred emotions, with British singer Ellie Goulding bringing a memorable night in London to a conclusion, or maybe it was the volley of memories or the replays in the mind, and there are plenty of those shared between these tennis greats, being brought to the fore.
As Nadal sat alongside his friend and great rival at the O2 Arena in London last friday night, the pair cried. Fans chanted Federer’s name, the pair hugged and Federer received one last standing ovation. There was no doubt that this was it, the Swiss great’s final professional match in the ATP’s Laver Cup. He retires in a rally of tears – a genius who made tennis look effortless.
Please Yourself: Relieve Tension
Ace Indian filmmaker and director Mani Rathinam’s magnum-opus Ponniyin Selvan (son of River Ponni – Cauvery) based on the eponymous literary masterpiece by Tamil writer Kalki Krishnamurthy released this week, on 30 September, in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi languages.
Its Trailer became the first of a Tamil Film to be screened in Las Vegas, USA.
The film is directed by Mani Rathinam with Music scored by Academy Award winner A R Rahman, Lyrics by Vairamuthu and others, Art Direction by Thota Tharani, cinematography by Ravi Varma.
The casting includes most of the brightest stars of South Indian cinema and includes former Miss World Aishwarya Rai in a beautiful role. And the promotions have created a never before seen anticipation of a movie release.
The movie is about one of the greatest Kingdoms the world has seen, the Cholas of South India and the story is being told in two parts in a budget of over 450 crores. It is produced by Mani Rathinam’s own Madras Talkies and Subaskaran Allirajah’s Lyca Productions, which is a sub group of Lycamobiles.
Ponniyin Selvam is a historical fiction novel, first serialised in the weekly editions of the the popular Tamil magazine Kalki from 29 October 1950 to 16 May 1954, and later integrated and released as a novel in five volumes of about 2210 pages in 1955. It tells the story of early days of Arulmozhivarman who later became the great Chola Emperor Rajaraja Chola I (947 CE – 1014 CE).
Ponniyin Selvan is widely considered to be the greatest novel ever written in Tamil. The craze for the series which was published weekly was such that it elevated the magazine circulation to reach a staggering figure of 71,366 copies – no mean achievement in India of the early days. Even today, the novel has a cult following and and enduring fan base, across generations for its well-etched characters, tightly woven plot, vivid narration, wit of dialogue, and sketches/drawings of the Chola period brought alive by famous artist and painter Maniyam Selvam.
For those who have read the story and are also familiar with Indian movie stars, the star cast is a galaxy: Karthi as Vallavarayan Vandiathevan, Vikram as Aditya Karikalan, Jayam Ravi as Arulmozhi Varman, Trisha Krishnan as Kundavai, Aishwarya Rai as Nandhini, Shobitha Dhulipala as Vaanathi, Aishwarya Lakshmi as Poonguzhali, Jayaram as Azhwarkadiyaan Nambi, among many others
Read more about Ponniyin Selvan at:
More stories coming up in the weeks ahead, to break-down tensions. Watch the world with World Inthavaaram.