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Global effort on girls’ education defeating Taliban’s purpose: Malala



Malala Yousafzai

Las Vegas, Aug 29 : Taliban’s efforts to keep girls away from education in Pakistan was defeated by their very action of shooting her, says Malala Yousafzai, the world’s youngest Nobel laureate.

“The result is that today millions of people all over the world are speaking out” and taking action against keeping young girls away from the liberating influence of education, she told an audience of several thousand techies here on Tuesday.

She was invited by VMware for their VMworld 2018 conference to talk about her rising from the near-death experience to become a leading voice in the world on educating young girls.

Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban member in 2012 when she defied the diktat of the Sunni Islamic fundamentalist movement, which was entrenched in Afghanistan.

She was interviewed on the stage by Sanjay Poonen, Chief Operating Officer of VMware.

Born in Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala said her life was as normal as could be and she was lucky to have a father who believed in her and in educating girls.

“We could not then believe that something like the Taliban could happen, as you cannot today, here, that someone would come with guns and take away your right to education.”

She was repeatedly greeted with applause from an appreciative audience as she told her story of defiance.

She said she had to fight against the mindset of people — manifested by the Taliban men — who were against educating girls, or even allowing them to move out of their homes alone.

“They were against education because they knew that it would empower women to be independent.”

Men with guns first banned music, then they stopped women from going out and finally prevented the girls from being educated.

Malala did not remember the incident leading up to her shooting in the Swat Valley as she recalled the moment when she woke up in a hospital in Birmingham, UK, where she stayed for two and a half months.

She was conferred the Nobel Prize for her courage and became an activist and a symbol of defiance against the Taliban’s brand of politics.

Poonen sought to know why she had forgiven the person who sought to kill her. She said he was a young Taliban follower who was told that he had to kill a “blasphemous” person. He thought he was a doing good in a twisted thinking about Islam — a religion, she said, which spreads the message of kindness, tolerance and peace.

She said she hoped that the person gets education and realises the true meaning of the religion he was following. She also did not want to hold on to the anger. “Hate and anger is a waste of energy and I did not want to waste my energy”, and so she moved on to “forgive” the person who had attacked her.

She told the audience that she was named after Malalai of Maiwand who had defied the British troops in the 1880 Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan, who was one of the few women known in history from the area, because traditionally women “did not have names”, as they were confined behind burkhas or head-to-toe-covering.

“They were called either someone’s daughter or sister,” not having a name of her own.

Talking on a lighter note at the conference, she said she was overwhelmed by “too many acronyms” used by the techies, bringing the house down. She spoke about her love of cricket and how she tried to explain to Westerners that it “was okay” to play a game for five days which was exciting and not boring as many thought.

She spoke about the need for India and Pakistan to have good relations, “but when it comes to cricket we are rivals”. She said it did not matter who got the cricketing World Cup as long as Pakistan won against India.

Poonen, of Indian origin, and who is responsible for worldwide sales, services, alliances, marketing and communication at VMware said that the two nations were united in their love for the game.

Malala also spoke about doing everything to ensure that girls get educated since 150 million of them worldwide did not get the “liberating influence” which would give them freedom and independence.

She works to raise money for her foundation which works in several countries towards that goal.

She told the 100 students invited to the conference from two schools that they should “believe in themselves” and speak up about things they believe in.

“There is no such thing as young age for taking up causes,” she told a student who posed a question on behalf of the others, pointing to her own age of 10 or 11 when she took up the fight against the Taliban.

Poonen announced Dell Technologies’ – VMware’s parent company – plan to provide the invited students’ school with computers, and he urged his colleagues (some 23,000 of them) to donate to Malala’s foundation for which the company would provide matching funds.

(Hardev Sanotra is in Las Vegas at the invitation of VMware for its VMworld 2018 conference. He can be reached at [email protected])


YouTube testing new video recommendation format: Report



San Francisco, Jan 16 : Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube is testing a new video recommendation format that displays blue bubbles on the screen with relevant keywords and related topic suggestions, facilitating easier browsing, media reported.

“The screenshots obtained show these blue bubbles just underneath the video player showing more specific video recommendations,” The Verge reported on Tuesday.

The video-sharing platform is currently testing the feature with some users on its main desktop page as well as on the mobile app.

For sometime now users have been complaining that the videos recommended on the side on YouTube’s interface often have little to do with the current video, making recommendations a point of contention for the platform.

“It’s unclear if the videos that populate from the new recommendation bubbles will face similar algorithmic issues that YouTube’s recommendation feed currently suffers,” the report added.

There has not been any word from YouTube as of now on the working of these blue bubbles and whether or not they will roll out the test feature to a bigger group in the coming months.

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2002 Gujarat riots: Judge P.B. Desai ignored evidence, says activist Harsh Mander



Harsh Mander

New Delhi, Jan 9 : Special SIT court judge P.B. Desai “ignored evidence” that former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in a mob attack in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Housing Society during the 2002 riots, did all that was possible within his power to protect Muslims from the “rage of the mob” and instead echoed the position of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi that his killing was only a “reaction” to his “action” of shooting at the mob, says human rights activist Harsh Mander.

He says that “the learned judge”, who retired in December 2017, overlooked statements by surviving witnesses that Jafri made repeated desperate calls to senior police officers and other persons in authority, “including allegedly Chief Minister Modi”, pleading that security forces be sent to “disperse the crowd” and rescue those “against whom the mob had laid a powerful siege”.

Mander, who quit the IAS in Gujarat in the wake of the riots, makes these observations in his just released book, “Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India”, published by Penguin.

The 66-year-old activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as homeless persons and street children, goes on to quote the late journalist Kuldip Nayar to establish that Jafri had desperately telephoned him, “begging him to contact someone in authority to send in the police or the Army to rescue them”.

Mander says Nayar rang up the Union Home Ministry to convey to it the seriousness of the situation. The Home Ministry said it was in touch with the state government and was “watching” the situation. Jafri called again, pleading with Nayar to do something as the mob was threatening to lynch him.

In the chapter titled “Whatever happened in Gulberg Society?”, Mander contends that Jafri did everything within his power to protect “those who believed that his influence would shield them from the rage of the mob”. Mander says Jafri begged the mob to “take his life instead” and in a show of valour went out “to plead and negotiate” with the angry crowd.

“When he realised that no one in authority would come in for their protection, he also did pick up his licensed firearm and shoot at the crowd…,” Mander notes, describing it as the “final vain bid” on behalf of Jafri to protect the Muslims in the line of fire.

The author notes that in describing Jafri’s final resort to firing as an illegitimate action, the judge only echoed the position taken repeatedly by Modi, who had given an interview to a newspaper in which he had said that it was Jafri who had first fired at the mob.

“He forgot to say what a citizen is expected to do when a menacing mob, which has already slaughtered many, approaches him and the police has deliberately not responded to his pleas,” says Mander.

He says that it was as if even when under attack and surrounded by an armed mob warning to slaughter them, “and with acid bombs and burning rags flung at them”, a good Muslim victim should do nothing except plead, and this would ensure their safety.

Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri, according to Mander, was firmly convinced that her husband was killed because of a conspiracy that went right to the top of the state administration, beginning with Modi. The author notes that the court, in its judgement running into more than 1,300 pages, disagreed.

“It did indict 11 people for the murder but they were just foot soldiers,” observed Mander.

He further says that the story the survivors told the judge over prolonged hearings was consistent but Judge Desai was convinced that there was “no conspiracy behind the slaughter” and that the administration did all it could to control it.

“Jafri, by the judge’s reckoning, and that of Modi, was responsible for his own slaughter,” he laments.

Mander also argues in the book that recurring episodes of communal violence in Ahmedabad had altered the city’s demography, dividing it into Hindu and Muslim areas and Gulberg was among the last remaining “Muslim” settlements in the “Hindu” section of the city.

He says that Desai also disregarded the evidence in the conversations secretly taped by Tehelka reporters, mentioning that superior courts, according to Desai himself, have ruled that while a person cannot be convicted exclusively based on the evidence collected in such “sting operations”, such evidence is certainly “admissible as corroborative proof”.

“But he chose to disregard this evidence, not because there was proof that these video recordings were in any way doctored or false but simply because the Special Investigative Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India chose to ignore this evidence,” says Mander.

According to Mander, the Tehelka recordings “certainly supported the theory that there was indeed a plan to collect, incite and arm the mob to undertake the gruesome slaughter”.

The SIT was headed by R.K. Raghavan, today Ambassador to Cyprus. Mander contends in the book that just because the investigators did not pursue Tehelka recordings in greater depth, Desai concluded that the “recordings cannot be relied upon as trustworthy of substantial evidence and establish any conspiracy herein”.

In the book, Mander takes stock of whether India has upheld the values it had set out to achieve and offers painful, unsparing insight into the contours of violence. The book is now available both online and in bookstores.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Number of suicides highest in Army amongst three services

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.



Ajit Doval

New Delhi, Jan 7 : The number of defence personnel committing suicide was highest in the Army amongst the three services in the last three years, data shows.

In 2018 alone, as many as 80 Army personnel are believed to have committed suicide. This number is 16 for Air Force and 08 for the Navy, Minister of State (MoS) for Defence Subhash Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Monday.

In 2017, the number of Army men who are suspected to have committed suicide was 75, while in 2016 this number was 104.

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

In his reply, the Minister said that various steps have been taken by the armed forces to create healthy environment for their officers and other ranks.

“Some of the steps include provision of better facilities such as clothing, food, married accommodation, travel facilities, schooling, recreation etc and periodic welfare meetings, promoting yoga and meditation as a tool for stress management, and training and deployment of psychological counsellors,” the reply read.

It said mental health awareness is provided during pre-induction training.

Besides, institutionalisation of projects “MILAP” and “SAHYOG” by the Army in Northern and Eastern Commands to reduce stress among troops has been done.

A helpline has also been established by the Army and the Air Force to provide professional counselling.


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