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Holy Mess Greets Devotees At Bodh Gaya Buddhists Meet

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Bodh Gaya (Bihar): Heaps of garbage, stinking toilets, squelchy muddy pools, harassment by beggars and severe power cuts are not exactly things one associates with a spiritual enlightenment trip. But this is exactly what tourists from around the world faced at this Buddhist holy town.The thousands of Buddhist devotees who  flocked to Bodh Gaya, the birthplace of Buddhism, for the 10-day Kalchakra Puja were left disappointed. 

The Jan 1-10 festival was led by Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. Well-known personalities like Hollywood star Richard Gere, Prime Minister of Tibetan government-in-exile Lobsang Sangay, and top official representatives of Buddhist countries attended the festival.

A large number of the over 200,000 Buddhist devotees belonged to Tibet and India, but sizeable numbers came from 63 different countries of Europe, the US and neighbouring nation.

The devotees complained of mud near the 4,000 tents, inadequate number of toilets, garbage around Kalchakra maidan, lack of facilities like drinking water and power supply, exorbitant rates charged by hotels and autos and cheating by local businessmen.

”It is difficult to move around and take clean breath due to the stinking mud and water logging near our tents and place of religious discourses by the Dalai Lama. The Bihar government has failed to provide simple arrangements for this large gathering,” Tenzing Phunso, a Tibetan devotee from Dharamsala, told IANS.

He said that most Tibetans from India expected good facilities but it appears the “state government ignored sanitation, water supply and electricity”.

”Not to talk about lodging and transportation. For me, Bodh Gaya was devoid of basic infrastructure necessary for such a large gathering. Frequent power cuts ashamed me,” he said. 

Michael John, a Buddhist devotee from the US, said there was filth everywhere, despite the fact that a big festival was being attended by people from around the world.

”It is sad that local authorities have failed to ensure a clean and garbage-free holy town. Another problem is the beggars,” he said.

Donald Henry, a devotee from Britain, was disappointed because he did not come across any decent eateries. 

”It is unfortunate that Bodh Gaya is propagated as the leading tourist site in India, particularly for Buddhists across the world, but the government failed to provide necessary facilities,” he said.

Henry said it was for the government to utilize a big opportunity like this to show its hospitality to attract tourists.

Swamijee, a Hindu monk-turned-activist who has been campaigning for a clean and encroachment free Bodh Gaya, said the local authorities have made a mockery of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s claims of developing the tourism sector.

”Devotees have been forced to live in dark and use dirty water to clean their clothes and utensils. There is no arrangement for garbage disposal. It is all giving a bad impression of Bodh Gaya,” he said.

An official of the organising committee of the Kalchakra Puja told IANS that they were not receiving the full cooperation of authorities in Bodh Gaya.

”Some local government officials wanted cash for work but we refused to pay bribe that resulted in poor facilities,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Bodh Gaya, about 110 km from here, is where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment 2,500 years ago. The Kalchakra Puja or Wheel of Time, is one of the most sacred events of the Mahayana sect of Buddhists. It is being held for world peace and brotherhood.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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