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Incredible rescue from Thai cave: Mission “I m Possible”

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Thai Cave Rescue Team

In the northern Thailand, hundreds of international rescue workers were busy spending their last waking hours for the past 15 days trying to get a group of 12 boys, and their 25-year-old soccer coach out who have been inadvertently trapped in a cave after flooding caused by relentless monsoon rains.

In a marathon rescue operation, four boys were rescued on Sunday and an additional four emerged on Monday. Today, since early morning, a high-risk operation was in progress to rescue the remaining four boys and their coach. After a grueling operation all 13 people were rescued after being trapped in the cave for 18 days.

Thai navy Seals, who have been running the operation, confirmed that all 13 were out. The Seals officially broke this news on their Facebook page by posting “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science or what”.

Three navy seals and a doctor, who had been with the boys, emerged safely from the cave several hours later. The four boys and their coach who were rescued today have been airlifted to hospital to join their eight teammates who were rescued earlier.

The entire plan is based on bringing four boys each day because on an average, it takes about 20 hours to re-set the oxygen tanks which divers use inside the cave for the rescue purpose. It is not clear at this point of time if all five of those remaining inside will get out on Tuesday.

                   A Buddha statue is seen in front of Tham Luang cave

The idea of entire operation was based on to first take out the strongest boys which may seem counterintuitive, but then officials were working on the theory that those who have the best chance of surviving should be rescued first.

The boys who were mostly in 11-16 years age group, and their 25-year-old soccer coach became stranded when they went exploring inside the cave after a practice game. But the sudden Monsoon downpour blocked off their escape and also prevented rescuers from locating them for almost 10 days.

It was on July 2 when rescue teams finally discovered the boys and their coach who were found in relatively good health but had traveled deep inside the cave complex. Ekapol Chanthawong, the soccer coach who got trapped in the cave with 12 boys for nearly two weeks apologized to their parents in a handwritten note released Saturday and promised to take care of children during the difficult rescue mission.

                             Photograph: Thai Navy Seal/Reuters

The assistant coach of the Wild Boars, the football club has been on the receiving end of seething criticism for leading the boys into the predicament. At the same time, he got accolades for his subsequent efforts to keep them alive. It was told by authorities that the coach took the boys deep into a massive Tham Luang cave complex in the northern Chiang Rai province after a football game on June 23.

Through handwritten letters, the boys assured their parents and also requested for their favorite foods from family members. One boy called Tun wrote “Mom and Dad, please don’t worry, I am fine”. He further requested to get fried chicken after he got out of the cave. “The air here is little chilly but don’t worry”, wrote another. He also wrote “Don’t forget to set up my birthday party when I am back”

In a joint letter, the boys said they were all hale and hearty and wanted to go to their homes immediately. They also made a special request to their teachers. They wrote “Teacher, don’t give us lots of homework!”

While the boys sounded a brave tone, their situation remained critical as rescue teams raced against the time to find a way to get them out. Heavy rains were forecasted for this week which could raise the water levels in the flooded cave complex, making the rescue impossible.

The most likely rescue scenario would have involved getting out the boys by using diving gear with the help of expert divers. But, most of the boys didn’t know how to swim and had become physically weak during last two weeks. The difficulty level of the rescue operation would have made swimming across the cave very dangerous as in some places the width was not more than 20 inches.

The assistant coach of the Wild Boars, the football club has been on the receiving end of seething criticism for leading the boys into the predicament. At the same time, he got accolades for his subsequent efforts to keep them alive. It was told by authorities that the coach took the boys deep into a massive Tham Luang cave complex in the northern Chiang Rai province after a football game on June 23.

Through handwritten letters, the boys assured their parents and also requested for their favorite foods from family members. One boy called Tun wrote “Mom and Dad, please don’t worry, I am fine”. He further requested to get fried chicken after he got out of the cave. “The air here is little chilly but don’t worry”, wrote another. He also wrote “Don’t forget to set up my birthday party when I am back”

In a joint letter, the boys said they were all hale and hearty and wanted to go to their homes immediately. They also made a special request to their teachers. They wrote “Teacher, don’t give us lots of homework!”

While the boys sounded a brave tone, their situation remained critical as rescue teams raced against the time to find a way to get them out. Heavy rains were forecasted for this week which could raise the water levels in the flooded cave complex, making the rescue impossible.

The most likely rescue scenario would have involved getting out the boys by using diving gear with the help of expert divers. But, most of the boys didn’t know how to swim and had become physically weak during last two weeks. The difficulty level of the rescue operation would have made swimming across the cave very dangerous as in some places the width was not more than 20 inches.

As part of their rescue efforts, the divers are tutoring boys and the coach about rudimentary diving lessons. Thai authorities have made it clear that diving through the murky water is the only way the boys could be taken out. A fibre-optic cable is being laid inside the cave which would ensure the audio as well as video communication between children and their parents.

Poonsak Woongsatngiem, a rescue official with Thailand’s interior ministry, told The Guardian that the water level inside the cave had been reduced by 40 per cent in the past few days. However, more rainfall is putting pressure on the rescuers to come out with a plan to remove the boys before flood waters rise higher.

Divers who are working round the clock to free the boys and their coach must navigate dark, flooded tunnels for six hours to reach them. It takes another five hours to return. The authorities are also calculating as how long they could afford rescuers to remain in the cave considering that the weather could anytime change for worse. If it comes to that, the rescuers will be asked   to withdraw which could cut the contact with boys for next four months.

According to the rescue plan, the boys would be dressed in wetsuits, boots and helmets, and divers would use an 8mm static rope to guide them out. They will be given oxygen supply from a navy diver’s kit. A number of “stage tanks” have been also placed at every 25 to 50 metres along the cave to ensure a continuous supply of oxygen. Divers working in the rescue team have warned boys about the dark and dangerous waters which have flooded the cave.

Though boys are physically in much better shape but experts have their doubts as according to them the ordeal may have taken a heavy toll on their confidence level which could worsen if their stay becomes longer. Paul Auerbach from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University medical school said  “It’s very likely that while the boys were in the cave they may have experienced various degrees of anxiety, fear, confusion, vulnerability and dependency, and perhaps hopelessness,” In the end, it will be apt to say “Jako rakhe Saiyan maar sake na koi”

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Gau Rakshaks not listening to Modi is a matter of concern: Former VP Hamid Ansari

The Jinnah portrait was just an excuse. It’s been there for a long time. The gentleman who objected to the portrait was a member of the AMU Court for three years. What did you do about it?”

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Hamid Ansari

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) There has been a rise of vigilantism in the country and if “gau rakshaks” (cow vigilantes) are not listening to even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then it is a matter of concern, says former Vice President Hamid Ansari.

“Modi is a strong leader. He is the unquestioned leader of his party. If his words are not being listened to, that’s a matter of serious concern. No need to say that there are people in his party who are defying him. I am not drawing that conclusion,” Ansari said in an interview with IANS ahead of the release of his latest book “Dare I Question”.

This book is a compilation of speeches that Ansari made on different occasions on different themes. He said he has explored various issues in the book such as what is it to be an Indian, what is Indian nationalism or why do we call ourselves plural, secular, democratic.

The former Vice President created a flutter recently when he said in the foreword to the book that the remarks of Modi at the farewell function for Ansari last year that his views were conditioned by his long career as a diplomat in Muslim countries and as a person who has dealt with minoities (as a member of the National Minorities Commission) were a deviation from tradition on such occasions.

While asserting that intolerance is indeed rising in society, he underlined that it cannot be said that the communal divide emerged only after the Modi government came to power as it has been there for very long.

“Intolerance has been there in our society for a long, long period. But I think if the level of water rises you don’t notice it at first and it begins to rise higher and higher. Then you notice it. That’s what is happening,” he said.

“Yes, there has been a rise of vigilantism. It has been written (about) nationally as well as internationally. International newspapers have reported that there has been a rise in it. I can’t put a precise date (as to when it was noticed first)… different occasions, different places. It has been going on for many, many years,” he told IANS.

There have been incidents of attacks and lynchings of people belonging to the minority community suspected of cow smuggling or in the name of eating beef in some states.

Has it risen after Modi government came to power?

“No, no. Every government has been guilty of failures. Every time there has been a communal riot anywhere, it is a manifestation firstly of intolerance and secondly of failure of administration.

“You see two people can always have a disagreement. Two bicycles can collide on the road and there will be exchange of hot words. But what takes a small disagreement into a communal riot requires thinking and planning. And wherever there is such planning, there is failure of law and order,” Ansari said.

Asked if he is particularly indicting the state governments headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for rising vigilantism, the former Vice President said: “Look, I am indicting the government of the day wherever it is. Whether it happens in Assam, Kerala or Punjab. It doesn’t matter. I am not targeting political parties, I am targeting administrations.”

Commenting on critics and trolls on social media tagging him as an “ungrateful Muslim” post his remarks in a TV interview just a day before his demitting office that there has been a rising sense of insecurity among the Muslims, Ansari pointed out that it was not for the first time that he had said as much.

“Ungrateful to whom? This is my land. I am an equal citizen of this country. I am an equal stakeholder of this country and I have been so for centuries. Where is the question of ungratefulness? Gratefulness or ungratefulness comes only if you are giving me something and I am receiving something. It is my right. I have my rights, I have my duties,” Ansari said.

Asked if the incident of Hindutva goons barging into Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) when he was there to attend a function on May 2 happened with the local administration’s connivance, Ansari said he would desist from drawing such conclusions but stressed that the Jinnah portrait there was just an excuse to create disruption.

“I don’t draw that kind of conclusions. But I do know I was invited there, and there was disruption. The function could not take place. The senior police officer in the district next day admitted that there was a failure of arrangements and that he is going to inquire into it.

“I am not drawing a conclusion that there was a connivance of the local administration with the miscreants. But I see it as straightforward fact of failure. Now why that failure took place, let the inquiry find out.

“But yes, the Jinnah portrait was just an excuse. It’s been there for a long time. The gentleman who objected to the portrait was a member of the AMU Court for three years. What did you do about it?” Ansari asked.

On the demand by rightwing politicians to end the minority status of the AMU and Jamia Millia Islamia, Ansari said that as the matter is being heard in the Supreme Court, he, and others, should not comment on it.

“Let the court’s opinion come, we will see after that. The Acts of Parliament are there which created these institutions, the debates in Parliament are there as to what was the intention behind setting up these institutions. All this will be discussed threadbare in the Supreme Court and the court will decide,” he said.

As the next Lok Sabha elections are nearing, it is pertinent to examine the present government’s achievements and failures. While Prime Minister Modi used to bitterly attack the Manmohan Singh government over an “absence” of a tough policy on Pakistan, has the present government evolved a consistent policy on Pakistan after four years in office?

Ansari, who was a career diplomat, replied: “We have zig-zagged on Pakistan to the best of my knowledge. We have gone like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. If that is policy, then there is a policy. What can you do about it?”

He added that while India’s traditional policy of non-alignment adopted under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was “fine” and earned the country respect in the world, India’s neighbourhood policy has deteriorated in recent years.

“Our neighbourhood policy at the moment seems to be under some stress. People who are knowledgeable about it have written about it,” he said.

Is India doing enough to counter China’s growing influence?

“Successive governments have been very conscious about it. China is a big neighbour. And we have relations with China, different kinds of relations — political, cultural and even military relations. Both countries understand that we have problems also, we have positive relations as well,” Ansari said.

(Asim Khan can be reached on [email protected] )

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Once a poetic experience, sex has now become an unfulfilling encounter: Writer Seema Anand

The Arts of Seduction” (Aleph/188 pages/ Rs 499), the publisher says, will forever change the way one thinks about love and lovemaking.

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Seema Anand

She is an acknowledged authority on the Kama Sutra, and her recent book, “The Arts of Seduction”, is billed as a guide to having great sex in the 21st century. London-based mythologist and narrative practitioner Kamadevika Seema Anand laments that people are not having “great sex” these days, and that it has been reduced to an “act of instant gratification”.

Once a poetic experience“For the most part, sex is now a brief, tiresome, unfulfilling encounter, something that ‘needs to be done’. For the ancient Indians sex was a poetic experience centred on the nuances of seduction and the subtlety of exploration whereas our idea of ‘great sex’ focuses on the tiniest (and possibly the most irrelevant) part of it — the act of penetration. The ‘Kama Sutra’ holds that there is only so much one can do with the genitals. The real excitement comes from what happens before and after, from what the mind can conjure up,” Anand told IANS in an email interview.

To explain better, she asks her readers to imagine a feast of their favourite foods laid out in front of them.

“You pick up each thing separately, you savour it, you roll it around your mouth till its flavour fills your brain. Then, and only then do you move on to the next thing so that at the end of it even the memory of each taste will have the capacity to bring a smile to your face.

“Similarly, we are like a banquet of erogenous zones with an incredible capacity for pleasure, where each spot has its own sensations and its own manner of arousal — imagine the potential,” she said.

Pleasure, she said, is the bringing of each little nerve ending tingling to life — one tiny nerve at a time.

“It needs the indulgence of time and fantasy — you need to be physically, mentally and emotionally present with your lover. When was the last time you can say you did that,” she asked.

Anand reminded that “Kama Sutra” author Vatsyayan’s solution for exploring pleasure was to create variety — variety in everything.

“The only way to keep it fresh is to constantly change what we do. However, that is a challenge in itself — in our heads we can fantasise to the end of the universe and back but in terms of ‘doing’ we never vary things. So if it is the kiss then let there be 500 different types kisses to choose from, depending on the occasion — kisses that only use the lips, those that use the lips and the tongue, yet others that use the lips, the tongue and the teeth…” she quipped.

Anand said that if there was ever a time to bring back the “Kama Sutra” and its ideas, it was now.

The book, she said, began with an exploration of the incredible literary and cultural heritage which is all but lost to us. “I wanted to unravel those metaphors, to dig up the ancient myths and stories, to unsilence the narratives that made sex such a poetic experience for Ancient India. I wanted to put the seduction back into sex and reclaim the refinement and joyousness of sexual pleasure for the human race,” she said on what propelled her to write the offering.

The Arts of Seduction” (Aleph/188 pages/ Rs 499), the publisher says, will forever change the way one thinks about love and lovemaking.

The book charts several techniques and refinements that can elevate sex to “an altogether different level” — featuring innovative codes for loves messages, the effects of applying perfume to different parts of body, the many different types of kissing, and, among others, where and how to massage your lover’s feet.

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

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Injunctions, defamation suits emerge as new weapons against authors, publishers

As a publisher I find that I have faced pressure and censorship across all political regimes

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Freedom Forge Press

New Delhi, July 11 : A biography that traces Baba Ramdev’s rise from godman to tycoon has been caught up in a legal storm for over 11 months; Amish Tripathi’s upcoming book has been served a legal notice and its launch postponed; a nonfiction account on Bastar by Nandini Sundar came under pressure from a state government; and a critical book on the 2002 Gujarat riots by Rana Ayyub could not find a publisher.

Image result for defamation suit against authors Rana Ayyub amit tripathi

Those who disseminate ideas through books have had their share of political coercion. “As a publisher I find that I have faced pressure and censorship across all political regimes,” says Chiki Sarkar, publisher of Juggernaut Books.

But now, an insidious method of going against authors and publishers has emerged — of causing delays through the courts. The fear of legal suits and defamation charges has assumed such proportions that it has led to rejections and self-censorship among publishers, industry insiders say.

Image result for defamation suit against authors

In a series of interviews with key people holding top portfolios in some of India’s most prominent publishing houses, IANS ran a reality check on whether or not they have faced issues like self-censorship or pressure from political groups or legal action during the four years of the Narendra Modi government.

“There has only been a few legal cases in the court, but we have not faced any political pressure,” says Kapish Mehra, Managing Director of Rupa Books.

What emerges from these discussions is that political pressures on publishing houses is not “a new phenomenon” — both parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have practiced it. But the legal threat as a weapon to thwart public discourse through books has assumed menacing proportions.

Recently, writer Amish Tripathi was served a legal notice for his latest book “Suheldev & The Battle of Bahraich”. Tripathi announced the postponement of the July 16 launch “due to some circumstances beyond our control”. Earlier, pre-orders were being booked.

The announcement of the book was made at Sonali Bendre’s Book Club in Mumbai and the cover was launched by actor Varun Dhawan, who too has been sent a legal notice.

The book is said to revolve around Raja Suheldev, a semi-legendary Indian king from Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh. In the legal notice sent on June 25, a copy of which IANS has, the sender has accused the author and bollywood actor Varun Dhawan, of hurting “his and his communities’ sentiments”.

“Raja Suheldev is a godly figure among the Rajbhar community. I have received several messages and complaints from members of our community that Amish Tripathi has hurt their sentiments,” Jaiprakash Rajbhar, who sent the notice, told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

Rajbhar, an advocate, said that Uttar Pradesh text books for Class VI clearly point out that Suheldev was from the Rajbhar community. “The author has referred to him as somebody from “other caste”. This is a historical blunder,” he said.

“Moreover, the cover of the book shows Suheldev half naked. A king who is fighting a battle and riding a horse could not afford a piece of cloth to cover his body?” he asked.

On such grounds are objections to work of great artistes being raised. Tripathi and publisher Westland have declined comment on the issue.

Tripathi is a writer of fame and repute. With gross retail sales of Rs 120 crores, his novels include “The Immortals of Meluha”, “The Secret of the Nagas”, “The Oath of the Vayuputras”, “Ram: Scion of Ikshvaku” and “Sita: Warrior of Mithila”.

Sarkar, who started her publishing career at Bloomsbury in London, then worked at Penguin Books India and rose to become India publishing head after Penguin’s merger with Random House, said that Juggernaut has published many politically brave books — “I am a Troll”, “Shadow Armies”,”The Burning Forest” and “Mothering a Muslim”.

“But the book we have run into the biggest legal trouble over — the biography of Baba Ramdev — is a non-political book,” Sarkar told IANS.

The publication and sale of “Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev”, authored by Priyanka Pathak-Narain, has been stayed by the Delhi High Court, after a lower court had lifted a similar order earlier.

Image result for defamation suit against authors Rana Ayyub amit tripathi

According to Baba Ramdev’s petition, the book mentions some details from his past that are “irresponsible, false (and) malicious”. Certain content, Ramdev’s petition said, “had been added without evidence and verification”.

Juggernaut said in its appeal that the book was “truthful, even-handed and balanced consideration of the history of Baba Ramdev, which has been meticulously researched and is based on public and recorded sources, most of which have been in the public domain for years”.

It all began on August 4, 2017 when in an ex-parte order, the Additional Civil Judge at the District Courts of Karkardooma in Delhi asked Juggernaut not to publish or sell the book. The injunction was lifted nine months later in April 2018.

But the freedom was not to last too long. In May 2018, the Delhi High Court restored the temporary injunction. Ramdev’s lawyer had told the court that certain parts of the book were “unfounded and had misleading material which are malicious and scandalous”.

Pathak-Narain, the author had told the court that the contents of the book represented “only reported true facts as gleaned from publicly available documents and contains legitimate and reasonable surmises and conclusions drawn therefrom”.

The next hearing in the case is in August. “We will fight it out up till the Supreme Court, if need be,” says Sarkar.

“The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar” by Nandini Sundar, professor of sociology at Delhi University, who has been writing about Bastar and its people for 26 years, faced covert pressure from the state government to not publish or distribute the book. She chronicled how the armed conflict between the government and the Maoists had devastated the lives of some of India’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens in Bastar.

Fear of legal cases or political pressure often lead to publishers exercising their own version of self-censorship. Journalist Rana Ayyub, who was lately in the news for facing hate and threat messages on social media, could not find a mainstream publisher for her book “Gujarat Files”, an undercover expose of the 2002 riots in the state that claimed the lives of over 1,000 Muslims. She ended up publishing it herself. Ayyub, in a text message from London, expressed her unavailability to respond at present.

Industry insiders say that “legal suits, defamations proceedings and temporary injunctions” were their greatest fear. Injunctions can kill the fate of any book. They say that in eight out of ten cases, where a book can potentially be stayed by a court, mainstream publishers would avoid publishing it — or at least tell the author to remove content or “tone down” portions which are “objectionable”.

(This is first article in the two-part series on freedom in book publishing. Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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