Uniform Civil Code: Supreme Court asks Govt why can’t it be done, tell us your plan

A bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and Shiva Kirti Singh questioned the government about its mandate on framing the Uniform Civil Code so that all religions are regulated by the same yardsticks in matters of law.

Underlining “total confusion” owing to personal laws governing religious practices, the Supreme Court sought to know from the government Monday whether it is willing to bring the Uniform Civil Code in the country. It asked the Solicitor General to seek the government’s view and posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks. A bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and Shiva Kirti Singh questioned the government about its mandate on framing the Uniform Civil Code so that unvarying standards are ushered in and all religions are regulated by the same yardsticks in matters of law. “There is total confusion… we should work on the Uniform Civil Code. What happened to it? If you (government) want to do it, then you should do it. Why don’t you frame and implement it,” the bench asked the counsel appearing for the Centre. The bench was hearing a petition, challenging the legal provision that compels Christian couples to wait for at least two years for divorce, whereas this period of separation is one year for other religions.

In previous hearings, the bench had been apprised by the government that it had agreed to consider amending Section 10A (1) of the Divorce Act and the Law Ministry had also initiated a proposal. Christians file for divorce under Section 10A (1) which states that a petition for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent can be presented before a court only after a judicial separation of two years. However, the period of separation is one year in other statutes such as the Special Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act and the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act. During the hearing Monday, the bench was displeased that even three months after the last date, the provision had not been amended. “What happened? Why this cannot be done? You should tell us if you want to do it,” the bench said as the government counsel sought some more time. Dissatisfied with the counsel’s response, the bench then sought assistance of Solicitor General of India Ranjit Kumar who was present in court to attend some other matter. It asked Kumar about the government’s position with respect to bringing uniformity in the divorce laws across religions. Kumar said he was not aware of the case and would require some time to go through the papers for properly assisting the bench on the issue as well as to get instructions from the authority concerned regarding the amendment in law. The bench asked the Solicitor General to also seek the government’s views on the Uniform Civil Code and posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks. In the last hearing, the court said Section 10A (1) lacked rationale and asked the government why it did not amend the law even after some high courts held it to be violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty). While hearing a separate matter in February, a bench led by Justice Sen had asserted: “We have to stamp out religion from civil laws. It is very necessary. There are already too many problems.” The bench was then hearing a PIL by advocate Clarence Pais who wanted the apex court to put its stamp of approval on the decrees of divorce and other such decrees issued by an ecclesiastical court or tribunal. An ecclesiastical court, set up under the Canon Law, is an institution for Catholic Christians. “This cannot be accepted, otherwise every religion will say it has a right to decide various issues as a matter of its personal law. We don’t agree with this at all. It has to be done though a decree of a court,” the court had observed. -http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/uniform-civil-code-supreme-court-asks-govt-why-cant-it-be-done-tell-us-your-plan/#sthash.7eXPr8nw.dp


Why Sangh Parivar Must Frequent Nehru Memorial

Surya Prakash

Barring historians, scholars and serious students of modern Indian history who are regular visitors to Teen Murti House and who have a fair idea of what is on offer, everyone else, including the aam aadmi is certain to be utterly confused about the activities of The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) Society that runs the place. The cacophonous debate over the future of this Society and its plans for development have drowned out saner voices and resulted in needless controversies and disinformation with regard to the activities of this institution, which will celebrate its golden jubilee next year. At the heart of this political wrangle is propaganda that the NMML Society’s remit is confined to Nehru, his papers, his thoughts, his family and nothing else. Second, that the key personalities of the so-called Right can have no place in the NMML premises.

Some facts about how this institution was conceived and run over the last 49 years should not only set the record straight but also help the general public wade through the disinformation and get closer to the truth. As decided by its founders, the NMML Society has three main constituents: a Nehru memorial museum; a library on modern India; and a centre for research in modern Indian history. These are the three main functions of the institution. The NMML’s Memorandum of Association mandates the institution to acquire, maintain and preserve papers of nationalist leaders of modern India and other eminent Indians who distinguished themselves in any field. It is also called upon to organise lectures and seminars to encourage the study of modern Indian history. Further, it has the responsibility to maintain a library of books, pamphlets among other things and other materials bearing on the history of modern India, with special reference to the freedom movement. In addition, the society has to institute fellowships and maintain records of non-official organisations and associations.

As the society’s remit covers such a wide range of activities specific to modern Indian history, it has, despite the resistance from some individuals claiming proprietorial rights over the institution, carried on its task as ordained by the society’s founders. Since modern Indian history is central to the institution’s work, the NMML Library has diligently gone about collecting manuscripts, personal papers and published works of individuals and documents pertaining to institutions. Notwithstanding the myopic view, intellectual dishonesty and pressures from leftist academicians and some members of the Nehruvian school, the society has had curators who have remained loyal to the Memorandum of Association. That is why the library boasts of material pertaining to icons of the so-called Right. These include personal papers and letters written by Dr Hedgewar, the founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS); Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (Guru Golwalkar), who succeeded Hedgewar as Sarsanghchalak of the RSS in 1940 and headed the organisation for over three decades; Dr B S Moonje, who was the President of the Hindu Mahasabhaand; Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and founder of the Jana Sangh.

The institution papers in the possession of the library include that of the All India Hindu Mahasabha. The library has published works of Mr Deendayal Upadhyaya, the co-founder of the Jana Sangh and its chief ideologue. The material available in the library is documented in the publication NMML Manuscripts: An Introduction, brought out by the institution.

Some excerpts from this publication are listed below: The library has 949 letters written by Dr Hedgewar to various individuals in Marathi and English between 1903-37. These documents, which were donated by the Shri Guruji Smriti-Sankalan Samithi, are valuable because of Dr Hedgewar’s political activities during that period, including his participation in the Home Rule campaign in 1918. He organised the volunteer corps at the Nagpur Session of the Congress and was jailed for his involvement in the non-cooperation movement in 1921. He founded the RSS in 1925. Dr Moonje’s papers include his diaries between 1926-36, his correspondence with various personalities prior to 1936 with considerable material on the affairs of the Hindu Mahasabha. Dr Moonje lived with Mahatma Gandhi in Durban, took part in the Home Rule Movement and was a member of the Central Legislative Assembly. He also headed the Hindu Mahasabha.

On Guru Golwalkar, the material available includes his correspondence with Hedgewar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Govinda Menon, Babasaheb Apte and many others. The letters deal chiefly with the activities and organisational work of the RSS. Interestingly, the Golwalkar Papers were handed over to the library by the person in-charge of the RSS office in New Delhi.

The library boasts of a huge collection of papers pertaining to Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, running to 70,000 pages. These papers, which include over 3,000 letters, speeches and writings and press clippings, were gifted to the library by Justice Rama Prasad Mookerjee and Mr Uma Prasad Mookerjee. It has the exchange of correspondence between Dr Mookerjee and Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Sir M Visveswaraya and many others. The library states that a bulk of these papers pertain to the Bengal Legislative Assembly, the Constituent Assembly, Hindu Mahasabha, the Wavell Plan, the partition of Bengal, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, and the formation of the Jana Sangh. It also includes his diaries between 1939-46. These papers are of immense value to students of modern Indian history because of Dr Mookerjee’s extraordinary life and achievements. He became Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University at the age of 33; was Member of the Bengal Legislative Council, the Constituent Assembly and the first Lok Sabha. He was Finance Minister in Bengal and later, the Union Minister for Industry and Supply. He resigned from the Nehru Cabinet over the Nehru-Liaqat Pact in 1950 and went on to launch the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), which in later years became the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Given these facts, the controversy whipped up in some quarters over an exhibition at the NMML outlining the life and work of Deendayal Upadhyaya, seems rather silly. Mr Upadhyaya joined Dr Mookerjee to launch the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, became the party’s first General Secretary and chief ideologue. His mantra of Integral Humanism and his concept of Antyodayais at the core of the policies pursued by India’s largest political party — the BJP — today and his imprint is already there in many socio-economic programmes launched by the Narendra Modi Government at the Centre.

So, the question really is not why the Sangh Parivar is now visible in these precincts. We need to ask why members of this political family stayed away from the NMML all these years when the library had such a wealth of original material on their icons?

The author is chairperson of  Prasar Bharati.



It is strange that the Government of India did not occupy the Gilgit-Baltistan area, despite the opportunity available during the final days of 1947-48 war. Even now, there has been no effort to reach out to the people of this region, who have been subjugated and exploited

A recent video footage shown on television across the globe, has highlighted the atrocities committed by the brutal Pakistani forces on the residents of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. It reminded one of the gory tales of the atrocities committed in the erstwhile east Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

Global community is now evincing a keen interest in this area, its people and their plight. The fact is that the people of this region have been leading a life of subjugation ever since 1947, but received no media coverage that could highlight their miserable plight. The print media occasionally tried to portray their problems, but very little heed was paid by the global community. Even the citizens did not take much notice of the same, despite the fact that the residents of this area were citizens of the Dogra kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir that acceded to the Union of India in October 1947.

During partition, Gilgit and Baltistan were an integral part of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. In a treacherous conspiracy, Major WA Brown, a British commander of the Gilgit Scouts, mutinied against the Maharaja of Kashmir and brought the area under illegal administrative control of Pakistan in November 1947, after the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession with India.

Many military historians wonder as to why India did not occupy the area, despite the opportunity available during the final days of the war. After the ceasefire, in 1949, Pakistan, in a master stroke, kept Gilgit, Baltistan, Hunza and Nagar under its direct control, rather than include them in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or the so-called Azad Kashmir.

For reasons unknown, the Government of India, turned a blind eye to this legal and historic blunder by Pakistan. Thus, the people of these areas, mainly Shias, were left at the mercy of the Sunni-dominated Pakistan, which has through a well executed plan, changed the demography of the region.

In 1970, the area was named as ‘northern areas’. The nadir was reached in 1974, when ZA Bhutto scrapped the Citizenship Act, allowing outsiders to freely buy property and settle in the region. Terror camps were also established in the area, much against the wishes of the locals.

Pakistan ever since continues to be the illegal occupier of Gilgit-Baltistan, exploiting its mineral and hydraulic wealth and denying the people, basic human and fundamental rights. There are no legal institutions, no medical facilities and no professional colleges. The revenue generated from tourism and other assets in the area is not utilised for the development of the area/welfare of the local residents.

The Government of India made no effort to reach out to the people of this region. Pakistan, on the other hand, played the religion card to its advantage, by creating hatred against Hindus and India, through the state-controlled media and school textbooks. India was portrayed as an enemy of the Muslims and Islam, and Pakistan as a citadel of Islam.

Reality dawned on the people in 1988, when more than one lakh Pakistani troopers and militants, under the command of then Brigadier Pervez Musharraf, brutally attacked them and subjected them to rape, loot, arson and forced conversion. Former President and former Pakistan Army chief Pervez Musharraf was given the title,‘Butcher of Shias’.

This incident compelled the people there to realise the actualities and have a re-think about their adopted country. They were also chary of joining hands with PoK, fearing Kashmiri domination. They continued to live like slaves and subjugated people. The area also became a victim of terrorism. To compound their miseries, the footfall of Chinese soldiers and natives also increased manifold with the active collaboration of Pakistani establishment.

Chinese investment in the area is illegal since the entire area is disputed. In a brazen contempt of international conventions, Pakistan has also illegally ceded a part of the area to China. Senge Sering, a scholar-activist from the area, has expressed surprise that nobody in India talks about Gilgit-Baltistan and Chinese illegal investments there.

Pakistan uses the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as cannon fodder, to achieve its politico-strategic interests in the region, particularly in Kashmir. In 1998, Gen Musharraf once again was the architect of a meaningless Kargil war, that not only led to the loss of about 4,000 innocent natives, but also to the displacement of hundreds and thousands of people, who till date remain internally displaced and economically deprived.

Pakistan continues to hold hostage the innocent people of the region for its economic and strategic reasons. The status of the area, though disputed, has been kept ambiguous by Pakistan. Through a sham ordinance in 2009, the area was re-designated as Gilgit-Baltistan and made a Province of Pakistan, with its own Governor and Chief Minister, but without representation in Pakistan’s highest decision-making elected body.

It was to be headed by a nominated Governor. Gilgit-Baltistan Council, headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, was also formed as a supreme body. The Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly, an elected body, has 24 elected and nine nominated members. It has an elected Chief Minister. The arrangement has been termed by the natives as ‘colonial’. Thus, the subjugation, exploitation, discrimination and federal domination continue unabated on the hapless residents of the area.

People there want freedom from the oppressive Pakistan regime. They look up to India and seek its support. New Delhi must provide moral, psychological and financial support to the residents of the area. After all, they are our people living under illegal Pakistani occupation. People-to-people contact and local trade should be encouraged through the opening of trade routes across the Line of Control. India must object to Chinese investments and presence in the area.

Whenever, Pakistan raises the ‘K’ word, it should be sternly reminded that the Kashmir issue is not confined to the Sunni-dominated Valley that comprises 11 per cent of the geographical area of the State and is inhabited by only 22 per cent of its total population, but also other areas and ethnic groups that form the majority in Jammu & Kashmir State, including Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK. The State Subject Act should be restored and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan must have complete control over their land and resources.


(The writer is a retired Army officer and security & strategic affairs analyst)

RSS is in it and outside it: M.G. Vaidya


At 92, M.G. Vaidya has seen it all when it comes to the nine-decade-old history of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh—the three bans, isolation, internal conflicts over joining politics, ferment and resurgence, changing power equations with the BJP, and finally the storming to power [of the BJP] with a forceful majority in 2014.

The RSS is “unfolding” and “in bloom,” says the patriarch, former spokesperson and ideologue of the Hindu nationalist organisation. The Hindu met him at his Nagpur residence and spoke on the context of the recent coordination meeting between the top brass of the RSS and the Modi government, attended by the Prime Minister himself.

Has the RSS now truly come out of the shadows? Meetings between the BJP and the RSS leadership are nothing new, even while the party was in power under Vajpayee. But then things were discreet….
The media is coming to know of it now; that such meetings exist…because [top NDA] ministers attended the meeting. Earlier too, they [BJP Ministers] would come. L.K Advani would come. Because Modi has come to power, the media’s attention has shifted to this. Nobody would come to cover these meetings earlier. When I became the first spokesperson, in our first press conference there were only two people (laughs).

There are strong allegations that the country is being run from Nagpur—the remote control of the Narendra Modi government is in Mahal, the RSS headquarters.
(Chuckles) Our remote control is Modi? Or [VHP leaders] Togadia or Ashok Singhal? I am amused by these allegations. How is it possible? Are we experts in different fields? For example, the Adhivakta Parishad (RSS’ lawyers’ cell) runs its own services. What advice can I give it? Because Modi, BJP is in power in centre, the media is engaging in allegations that RSS controls…

But don’t senior RSS leaders and cadre feel more ownership over the government today? The Ministers presented their ‘report cards’ to the RSS…
No such thought can come to my mind. The Prime Minister is a swayamsevak. I am happy. Even if a swayamsevak becomes a collector, I will be happy. As a collector, it is protocol that he will not attend the shakhas. But there is guru dakshina and on particular days he will come and sit in the audience [of the RSS?]. RSS need not progress because of any government help. There are so many [RSS-run] Vidya Bharti schools, but they don’t take any grant from the government (BJP). RSS members can go to any political party.

Are you happy with Prime Minister Modi? Is he working according to the RSS agenda?
That is not required. He needs to work to his ideology. What is the RSS ideology? The Nation; cultural nationalism. He is working well, increasing India’s pride globally. The RSS’ goals, its long-term aspirations cannot be fulfilled just by a political party. They need to prepare their goals in the light of cultural nationalism, which we call ‘Hindu Nation.’

Has RSS-BJP coordination improved over the years?
It is not necessary to have coordination. The method is, there is some person in-charge of so many activities, who need not come to the general secretary or the sarsanghchalak. Now, Ramlal and Ram Madhav (general secretaries) are in the BJP, they are both pracharaks. Do they not know what the RSS wants? Is it necessary for Modi and Amit Shah to come and consult? People say the RSS is guiding BJP. The RSS is ‘in it’ and ‘outside it.’ Does not Modi know what RSS wants? He was a full-time worker for so many years. Is it necessary to guide and direct Ashok Singhal? This coordination meeting happens every year or once in two years. And for the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha meeting, representatives of all these [Sangh Parivar] organisations meet. Those who want to ask them questions on what they did over the year can do so. Yes, there are also special coordination meetings, where activities connected with the masses are discussed. Like the political outfit [BJP] or the VHP, or BMS, or Vidyarthi Parishad. All these will be present at the All-India meeting. Strength of the delegations may vary but all these units are represented. In every outfit, you will have Sangh full-timers.

A senior RSS leader told me that the ‘RSS does not change, only the approach of people towards it changes.’ How has the organisation changed over the years?
It is in vikas [development]. This ‘unfoldment,’ is this not a change? From a bud, you become a flower. It is blooming. Just like ‘Hindu’ is a growing tradition, the RSS is growing. Blooming of the RSS means blooming of the organisation of the entire society.

The spotlight has been on the RSS, ever since it ran a successful campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections after Modi came to power. How has the organisation changed after…
[Interrupts] Have you heard any RSS functionary giving a direction to vote for a particular party? What Mohan Bhagwat has said is you are a citizen you should exercise your vote. Do I not know whom I am to vote for?

But isn’t his appeal a direct call to vote for BJP?
Naturally…But have you ever heard of any RSS member persecuted for indiscipline? Never. A foreign correspondent once asked me, ‘what is the secret of discipline in the RSS?’ Because, probably, we don’t have any anti- disciplinary action committee. This does not mean there is no indiscipline. I have seen an RSS swayamsevak contest against another RSS swayamsevak. When this happens, we try to make them understand but the RSS will never persecute them.

If the RSS gives advice to the BJP on matters of policy, national importance and politics, why can’t it openly acknowledge its political role? What’s the harm?
Not necessarily. The political interest is the domain of the political parties. How does the RSS come into the picture? Unless asked for, no advice will be given. RSS is inside it and outside it. It does not watch every item. It watches its own shakhas, own problems, and its own 55,000 seva projects.

The RSS is not open to scrutiny..
We understand the importance of publicity but mere publicity cannot become the cause of your strength. The workers are the real cause of your strength. We don’t invite workers. There is no application form in the RSS. We meet a person and invite him to the shakhas. He takes a pledge. Some do not take a pledge. That’s alright. We work in the open. Every day for one hour we meet… The RSS does not fit into any existing model of institution or organisation. The aim of the RSS has been, after independence, the organisation ‘of’ the ‘entire’ society. It is not an organisation within the society, but ‘of’ the ‘entire’ society.

The RSS has been very quiet on issues such as the Vyapam scam…
Vyapam scam pertains to a State and it is a State function. Is it a national disaster ? For example, if there is a war against another country then RSS will come forward.

What was the most difficult phase in the RSS’ history?
Definitely, the first ban (after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination). Everyone was against the RSS—the janata, sarkar and akhbar [people, government and the press].


Five yoga poses that will help relieve your aching knees

Knee injuries are the bane of many runners, but practising a series of simple yoga poses could help you get back on track

The knee is the most common body part that breaks down in runners, and when it does, it usually causes a temporary or permanent halt in one’s running regimen. When injured, practising yoga can help you heal and avoid injury in future.

In fact, even if you do yoga only once a week, you’ll notice a big difference in your running, says Alex Mazerolle, founder of Girlvana Yoga and the co-owner of Distrikt Movement in North Vancouver, Canada. Here, she demonstrates a five-pose circuit that takes just 15 minutes to complete.

“Doing this simple circuit two to three times a week would make a world of difference to your running,” says 28-year-old Mazerolle, who is also a yoga teacher for the EA Sports app, Yogify.

Mazerolle says runners in her yoga classes often have tight hamstrings, shoulders, and hips and glutes. The feet, lower legs, knees, thighs, hips, lower back, core, and arms are all part of a kinetic chain. When one link isn’t working properly, the consequences can be felt up or down the chain – including the knee.

Christine Felstead, author of the book Yoga for Runners (2013), says runners are often reluctant to try yoga, but can gain tremendous benefits from adding yoga to their fitness regimen.

Yoga restores and improves body symmetry, alignment and balance, she says, and this prevents injuries from occurring while healing stubborn, chronic, and recurring ones. Yoga postures help align the knee joint while strengthening the arches of the feet for better shock absorption. This reduces the weight-bearing impact of running.

“Runners have a high threshold for dealing with pain and learn to live with aches and pains as part of daily living,” Felstead says. “Runners are often amazed at how many of these nagging discomforts are eliminated with yoga practice.”

Mazerolle says yoga also helps boost mental capacity, increasing focus and calming the mind, which is especially important in longer races such as the half- or full marathon. Yoga also teaches you how to breathe very deeply and encourages the expansion of the lungs.

“When running, you’ll get more oxygen in the lungs,” says Mazerolle.

She suggests performing the following circuit in the sequence shown after a run. Take five deep inhales/exhales – or more if you want – for each pose, unless indicated otherwise.

Mountain pose.

1. Mountain pose

Stand with feet a shoulder width apart, close your eyes and breathe. This pose encourages the right body alignment and puts you in an anatomically neutral position – an upright body with weight equally distributed on the feet and the head stacked over the shoulders. It’s deceptively easy but runners with a knee problem usually have trouble standing perfectly aligned.]

Chair pose
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2. Chair pose

Stand in mountain pose with your feet together. On an inhale, sweep both arms up. On an exhale, bend your knees and sink into a high squat. Gaze ahead or up to your hands. If your knee injury is very bad, prop yourself up against a wall and/or remain in a high squat. Work on bending the knees in the same alignment. For sore or stiff upper back or shoulders, place your hands on your hips. The pose works the inner and outer thighs so that ligaments in the knee are equally strengthened. A lot of runners tend to be too strong in the IT band (outer thigh). The posture will also strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes for running speed and power, and reinforce the foot and ankle muscles to aid absorption of impact when running. Sink lower to increase the intensity.

Downwards facing dog pose
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3. Downwards facing dog

Begin on all fours. Spread your fingers and slowly lift the hips up. The pose stretches out your hamstrings and calves, and builds upper body strength. A lot of people with knee problems have very tight hamstrings and calves, as well as stiff back and hips – this can cause your back to round when doing this pose, placing extra weight on your hands and shoulders. Try to keep your back flat.

Thread the needle pose
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4. Thread the needle

Lie on your back with feet on the floor and knees bent. Cross your right leg to place your right ankle just above the left knee or thigh. Reach your hands under your left thigh and pull your left knee towards your chest. Ensure your back remains flat on the floor. This pose helps to open up the IT band, hips and glutes.

Legs up the wall pose
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5. Legs up the wall

If you don’t have a wall around, just elevate your legs in mid air above the pelvis. Hold the pose for three to five minutes. This encourages blood flow down from the feet, alleviating swelling in the ankles and knees. It also promotes relaxation and sleep.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Stretching a sore point


Celebrate National Yoga Month with Free Yoga Classes!

Did you know that September is National Yoga Month? Unlike National Taco Day, this is an official holiday with lots of cool events happening in celebration (nothing against tacos, as they also deserve celebration). The video above is from a few years ago and features Yoga Month founder Johannes Fisslingers talking about the vision behind Yoga Month.

What sets National Yoga Month apart from National Taco Day, is that the Department of Health and Human Services endorses Yoga Month, and the nonprofit organization, Yoga Health Foundation, has all sorts of yoga events planned to help promote yoga for better physical and mental health. Here’s a tweet from the National Institutes of Health to kick off this month of yoga goodness:

Yoga Health Foundation has partnered with over 1,600 yoga studios in the U.S. to offer a free week of yoga to new students. You can sign up for your free week of yoga here. After you fill in your contact information, you’ll be taken to a screen where you can look up participating studios in your area and select the one where you want to take your free classes.
More Ways to Celebrate
The easiest way to celebrate National Yoga Month is to just do some yoga! Stop, drop and do your favorite pose. If you’re new to yoga, try one of these simple yoga poses for beginners to get you started. These are basic poses and yoga breathing exercises that anyone can do.

National Yoga Month is a great excuse to mix up your yoga routine a bit. Doing the same practice in the same space every day can get a bit monotonous, but making even a simple change can refresh your yoga routine. Change the venue or try a different style of yoga this month. Do you usually do yoga at home? Take a class at a studio or practice outdoors. Is vinyasa your yoga style of choice? Give kundalini yoga a try.

Adults aren’t the only ones who can celebrate National Yoga Month. Your kids might like getting in on the yoga action! Find a parent-child yoga class, or try a kid-friendly yoga video. Even toddlers can do a little bit of yoga. My two-year-old son loves practicing at home with the Cosmic Kids yoga videos. They’re free on YouTube!

Even your dog might enjoy a little yoga. Maybe that’s what she’s been trying to tell you when she interrupts your home practice to lick your face! Dog yoga might sound a little bit wackadoo, but “doga” is a thing. And it’s a fun, bonding activity that you and your dog can do together. Dogs, like humans, can get a lot out of yoga.

Yoga Health Foundation also has a database of other Yoga Month events that you can search by city or zip code. Not all of these events are free, but there are some really cool things coming up this month in the world of yoga that are worth your time and health!

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/celebrate-national-yoga-month-with-free-yoga-classes.html#ixzz3lDooccvQ

‘Yoga Joes,’ a peaceful spin on the classic toy, find fans among the military

Nicole Spector

The various health benefits of yoga have been proven for both men and women, and yet it’s commonly thought of — at least in the U.S. — as mostly a women’s fitness practice. We see more pictures of women than men on the covers of yoga-related magazines, and apparel brands have no shortage of yoga-appropriate wear designed for ladies, but not so much for guys. As a result, a lot of men never even give yoga a try.

Dan Abramson, a 31-year-old designer living in San Francisco who refers to himself as a “forever beginner” at yoga, was looking to make the discipline more dude-friendly — with a sense of humor. He created Brogamats, yoga mats and mat carriers that have a masculine edge. More recently, he came up with the idea of Yoga Joes, miniature green figurines that look just like the classic plastic toy soldiers, aka army men that are commonly sold in packs. But Abramson’s soldiers aren’t at war. They’re at yoga.

Yoga Joes: the classic green army men doing yoga
Yoga Joes
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He thought up Yoga Joes while brainstorming with his friend Paul Simmons, a standup comedian. They wanted to create something funny that guys could pass around to each other to promote yoga.


“We were thinking: dogs doing yoga? No. The Hulk doing yoga? No… And then it hit us like a ton of bricks — army men doing yoga,” Abramson told TODAY. “Their little platforms could be replaced with little green yoga mats, and the classic green army men toys were already in very similar gestural poses to yoga. For example, the ‘Warrior II’ pose was inspired by an army man throwing a grenade. Or the army man crawling through the trenches kind of resembles a ‘Cobra Pose.'”
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Yoga Joes shows army men striking a different pose
Abramson launched a Kickstarter in 2014 to start production of the “Yoga Joes,” which are made through plastic injection. The interest was strong and immediate: 2,879 backers pledged nearly $110,000 to make the project happen.
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Yoga Joes have been successful both as toys for kids and as conceptual art for adults.

RELATED: How to avoid pilling in yoga pants: 6 athletic wear questions answered

“Moms tend to like buying them as a non-violent toy, to inspire their kids to get excited about yoga,” Abramson said. “But now a lot of museum gift stores are carrying them, as a form of giftable art statuette. They just got into the [San Francisco] MoMa store, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Denver Art Museum.”

Abramson’s creations have also gotten support from members of the military — a group he didn’t expect to attract.

“There’s a humongous community of people in the military that are really into yoga — whether it be for all around physical training exercises, or to treat veterans for post-traumatic stress,” Abramson said.

Yoga Joes shows army men striking a different pose
Yoga Joes shows army men striking a different pose
The concept of Yoga Joes has evolved into something much bigger than Abramson anticipated, and has connected to him to projects he never dreamed of being associated with, such as non-profits that bring yoga to soldiers.

“I connected with a great organization called Connected Warriors, and we were able to get Yoga Joes to Afghanistan,” Abramson said. “It was so cool, because this project was designed to convince more people to try yoga, and there it was: pictures of the Yoga Joes getting soldiers to sign up for yoga class at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.”

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Abramson has enjoyed making a toy traditionally associated with violence that instead delivers a message of peace and healing. He no longer seems concerned about whether Yoga Joes inspire men, specifically to partake in yoga, but whether it can inspire soldiers.

“Yoga celebrates a soldier’s most admirable qualities: discipline, focus and a desire to bring peace where there is pain.”


In rich Gulf Arab states, some feel shamed by refugee response

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, fellow Gulf states raced to shelter thousands of displaced Kuwaitis. Fast forward 25 years, and the homeless from Syria’s nearby war have found scant refuge in the Arab world’s richest states.

For critics of the Gulf’s affluent monarchies the contrast is profoundly unflattering, especially as several are backers of the combatants in Syria’s conflict, so must, they argue, shoulder a special responsibility for its consequences.

The wrenching image of a Syrian Kurdish refugee boy drowned on a Turkish beach has stoked debate in Europe. The official silence of Gulf Arab dynasties makes many Gulf citizens uneasy.

Paintings and cartoons of the young boy’s death crowded Arab social media, one depicting little Aylan Kurdi’s corpse laid out before an open grave with inert figures in traditional Gulf Arab cloaks and robes holding shovels.

Another showed the three-year old’s head slumped toward a tombstone marked “the Arab conscience”.

Sara Hashash of rights group Amnesty International called the Gulf Arab states’ behaviour “utterly shameful” and criticised Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for officially taking in zero refugees.

Turkey hosts almost 2 million, tiny Lebanon over a million and other restive and poor neighbours hundreds of thousands.

The Gulf states’ supporters say the numbers involved in Syria’s crisis are vastly larger than in Kuwait’s case. They point to the funding Gulf states have given to aid efforts in countries neighbouring Syria.

“Qatar is very small and already donating to refugees in Jordan, Turkey and northern Iraq. For logistical reasons Qatar cannot take in large numbers of refugees so instead Qatar chooses to support them financially,” said Abdullah Al-Athbah, editor in chief of Arab Newspaper.

But sympathy for Syria’s refugees is on the rise.

“It gives us a glimmer of hope after these recent drowning episodes to see broad campaigns of sympathy and solidarity with the issue of Syrian refugees by governments and peoples in some European countries,” wrote Zeid al-Zeid in a column for Kuwait’s Al-An newspaper on Sunday.

“But it makes us sorry and makes us wonder about the absence of any official response by Arab states … we’re seeing a silence that’s scandalous.”

Sultan Sooud al Qassemi, a commentator in the United Arab Emirates, said he suspected Gulf States were wary of allowing in large numbers of politically vocal Arabs who might somehow influence a traditionally passive society. But he said Gulf states should open their doors to the refugees.

“The Gulf states often complain that the Arabic language is underused and that our culture is under threat due to the large number of foreign immigrants,” al Qassemi said.

“Here is an opportunity to host a group of people who can help alleviate such concerns and are in need of refuge, fleeing a brutal war.”

One Kuwaiti analyst, a regular fixture on pan-Arab news shows, raised hackles by saying in a television interview last week that refugees were better suited to poorer countries, failing to acknowledge the pledges of rich European countries like Germany to take in many thousands.

“Gulf countries clearly can and should do an awful lot more,” said Oxfam’s Syria country director Daniel Gorevan.

He called on Gulf states to “offer up work places, family unification schemes, essentially other legal avenues for them to get into Gulf countries and to be able to earn a living.”

In Arab states beyond the Gulf, there is immense sympathy for Syrians, but mixed views on the feasibility of helping.

“Tunisia is not able to welcome any refugees. We cannot accept Syrian refugees. After the revolution of 2011, Tunisia was the first to pay the price in terms of refugees. We have welcomed 1.2 million Libyans and that has cost us a lot,” Boujemaa Rmili, a spokesman for the Nidaa Tounes party which forms part of the governing coalition.

Migrants from Syria and Sahel countries into Algeria are estimated at 55,000, a source from Algeria’s red crescent told Reuters. “We have done what we can to offer them the basics including food, medicine, host centres, and we have allowed the Syrian kids to study in our schools,” the source said.


Gulf officials and those defending Gulf policies say the outrage overlooks the billions donated to Syrian refugee camps abroad and the delicate demographics of countries where expatriate workers already nearly outnumber locals.

“Qatar has provided over $2 billion in aid to the Syrian people in addition to the $106 million provided by Qatar’s semi-governmental institutions,” a Qatari diplomat said.

Others felt Gulf states should go further.

“(The Gulf) should accept Syrian refugees. Saudis and Syrians have always been brothers and sisters. Aside from the fact that our religion requires us to do so, helping refugees should be a natural reaction to what we have seen in the media,” 22-year old Saudi student Noor Almulla said.

Another Saudi student, Sara Khalid, 23, said Gulf Arab states “as their neighbours and fellow Muslims” had a greater responsibility to Syrian refugees than Europeans.

While none of the Gulf Arab states have signed onto key global agreements defining refugee status and imposing responsibilities on countries to grant asylum, the United Nations Refugee Agency praised the Gulf’s “hospitality.”

“The six GCC governments continue to respect international standards with regards to protecting refugees,” especially in not repatriating them back to their war-torn homes, Nabil Othman, the UNHCR’s representative in the Gulf told Reuters.

While authorities generally apply “humanitarian considerations” to those overstaying their visas, Othman said work or local sponsorship still mostly defined residency status.

Foreign workers outnumber locals five to one in the UAE and Qatar, where well-heeled European families and South Asian workers are omnipresent while long-robed citizens are rare. Refugee camps are, and will likely remain, non-existent.

“The numbers of foreigners are overwhelming. Here we have 90 percent – do you want to turn local people into minorities in their own countries? They already are, but to do it really?” said UAE Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist.

Over the decades, Saudi Arabia has become home to around half a million Syrians and the UAE to over 150,000, and the welcome extended to these and other expat professionals has helped fuel a boom in Gulf economies.

But since the unrest and wars unleashed by the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings in 2011, those governments have adopted a stricter line on accepting Palestinians, Syrians and Shi’ite Muslims – a sign of just how much the rich and stable Gulf ruled by absolute monarchs is wary of importing political contagions.

Iyad al-Baghdadi, a Palestinian blogger and activist deported from the UAE last year, has criticized the response of the Gulf states and laments the closed borders and repression.

Recalling time spent in a Norwegian refugee camp with Syrian refugee friends, he said on Twitter: “Something about this felt absolutely alien – three grown Arab Muslim men who were made homeless and are seeking refuge in… Scandinavia.”

“The Arab world is 5 million square miles. When my son was born, among the worst thoughts was how it has no space for him.”

We lost terribly in 1965 war, Pak historian says

KARACHI: Pakistan “lost terribly in the 1965 war” with India, a Pakistani historian has admitted.

Dispelling “the victory myth”, historian and political economist Akbar S Zaidi said there cannot be a bigger lie as Pakistan had lost terribly, Dawn reported on Saturday. Zaidi said people are unaware of this fact because the history taught in Pakistan is from an ideological viewpoint. Zaidi said, “Students are not taught the history of the people of Pakistan. Rather it is focused on the making of Pakistan.”

Zaidi, who teaches history at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, added, “With the celebration of the victory in the 1965 war round the corner, there can be no bigger a lie that Pakistan won the war. We lost terribly in the 1965 war,” he said.

The remark comes with Pakistan just two days away from observing Defence Day to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 war.

On when was Pakistan created, he said one obvious answer is it did so on Aug 14, 1947 but he read out an excerpt from a Pakistan Studies textbook in which it was claimed it came into being in 712AD when the Arabs came to Sindh and Multan. “This is utter rubbish!” he said, rejecting the textbook account.

Zaidi also acknowledged that Parsis and Hindus contributed hugely in the educational development of Karachi and in a similar manner the Sikhs in Punjab.


Pakistan has lost international support on Kashmir: Husain Haqqani

“Kashmir is an emotive issue in Pakistan because of the failure of its leaders to inform their people that Pakistan no longer enjoys international support on the matter,” said Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US.

According to Haqqani, who is currently the director of South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, India refuses to discuss the Kashmir issue without the end of Pakistan-sponsored terror.

Whereas, he said, Pakistan for years has been trapped on its stance on the Kashmir issue, thus overlooking other crucial matters. “Pakistan has sought international support countless times for its position that Kashmir’s future must be resolved through dialogue with India.”

“Instead of accepting that it might be better for India and Pakistan to normalise relations by expanding trade and cross-border travel, Pakistani hardliners have stuck to a ‘Kashmir first’ mantra, which they know is unrealistic,” Haqqani reiterated.

Further, he expressed his belief that remaining adamant on Kashmir is futile and will only get Pakistan support from its military.