Community Lite Blogs

Rainbow Lit Fest Celebrates Queer Inclusivity in New Delhi

The winners of the first-ever Rainbow Awards for Literature and Journalism will be announced and felicitated on Day 2. The Fest will also see queer-run enterprises at work through stalls and pop-ups. In addition, there would be a bookstore run by the ‘queer-friendly’ Kunzum…reports Asian Lite News

The Rainbow Lit Fest – Queer and Inclusive is set to take place on 9th and 10th December 2023 at the Gulmohar Park Club, New Delhi. Bringing together diverse voices from across the nation, the Rainbow Lit Fest seeks to discuss queerness, find common ground and stitch more informed narratives about the LGBTQIA+ community.

This year, over 60 speakers, entertainers and performers will participate in the festival. In about 30 sessions covering a wide variety of topics, they will celebrate queerness and love while encouraging inclusivity. The festival will open with a spotlight session with director Jaydeep Sarkar (maker of the new queer docuseries Rainbow Rishta). There will be more such spotlight sessions with Saurabh Kirpal (senior advocate & author), actor Kalki Koechlin, Seema Anand (London-based mythologist; intimacy columnist) and Hoshang Merchant (modern India’s first openly gay poet).

Other prominent speakers include Alankrita Shrivastava (Director & Writer), actor Mona Ambegaonkar, Jaya Sharma (queer feminist activist), Urvashi Butalia (author and activist), Akhil Katyal (poet and queer activist), Poonam Saxena (senior journalist, translator, author), Rituparna Borah (queer feminist, writer, founder – Nazariya – QFRG), Niladri R Chatterjee (author and translator) and Rohin Bhatt (lawyer and activist).

Exploring themes of love and the law, social hierarchies and identities, the relationship between mythology, literature and culture, the overlap between queer rights and feminism, among other things, the conversations will revolve around the Rainbow Lit Fest’s aim to unravel queer history, acknowledge present realities and work towards a hopeful future. Special ‘Spotlights on History’ include revisiting India’s first Stonewall moment with activist Arif Jafar, and another remembering historian and gay rights activist Saleem Kidwai.

Besides history and academia, the Fest delves into the sub-continent’s rich culture of folklore and fluidity to bring together an immersive two-day experience. Five films that cover different aspects of queerness will be screened at the festival, including the award-winning My Mother’s Girlfriend and Muhafiz, among others. Mumbai-based Tamasha Theatre is set to perform Be-loved, an intriguing saga exploring love and freedom through a queer lens, for the first time in Delhi. Performances by queer artists feature musician John Oinam and band, drag performer Lush Monsoon, Geetanjali & Katukaleen rendering Kumaoni folk music, trans performer Avatari Devi, and Gayathri Sharma & Bhadra Sinha in a Bharatnatyam production representing the Ardhanarishvara philosophy.

The winners of the first-ever Rainbow Awards for Literature and Journalism will be announced and felicitated on Day 2. The Fest will also see queer-run enterprises at work through stalls and pop-ups. In addition, there would be a bookstore run by the ‘queer-friendly’ Kunzum. 

The festival is being supported by Delhi Queer Spaces, Naz Foundation, Nazariya – QFRG, Keshav Suri Foundation, Official Humans of Queer, The Pink List, The Q-knit, Queering in Chandigarh, Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents and Yes We Exist. Everything from the fest’s location – Gulmohar Park, which saw the early risings of the gay movement at the residence-cum-office of the Naz Foundation back in 2001 – to its belief system – that literature and art should speak for as many as possible, particularly those who aren’t usually heard – sets the Rainbow Lit Fest – Queer & Inclusiveapart.

Festival Director and Founder, Sharif D Rangnekar said, “After the Supreme Court verdict on marriage equality, there is a greater need for the community to come together and voice their views. Conversations around lived experiences are extremely essential in giving the community a sense of space, identity and belonging, while also informing the audience of queerness and the expanse of love and choice.”

ALSO READ-Sahela’: A Film Inspired by Personal Journey of Self-Discovery

-Top News Community UAE News

Pope to UAE Sikhs: Faith and service are intimately linked

“Faith and service, as you are aware, are intimately linked.”, said His Holiness Pope Francis

Members of the Sikh Delegation from Guru Nanak Darbar of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates met His Holiness Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican on 11th November 2023.

His Holiness expressed his joy to receive the diverse delegation and to learn about the faith-inspired service they offer the communities in those countries that have become their home and encouraged them to continue their selfless service which leads to God.

Such efforts, the Pope noted, “bear witness to your endeavour to live by faith and to contribute to the good of society,” especially as they seek to integrate themselves but at the same time “remain steadfast to your own specific identity.”

The Pope expressed gratitude for their commitment to building bridges among people, and serving the poor, the needy, and the suffering, noting that, in doing so, they acknowledge the ways their own lives have been blessed and enriched.

Indeed, the true path to God, as your Holy Scripture Guru Granth Sahib – “Sukhmani Sahib”…ang (page) 286 says,” the Pope continued, “lies in the service of our fellow human beings.” The Gospel brings us these words of Jesus: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt. 25:35-36). Selfless service rendered in particular to the least in our midst, and to those on the peripheries of society, besides makes us consciously aware of our own littleness and insufficiency, bring us closer to God.  May service, then, always remain your way of life and may you be a blessing to all whom you serve in promoting the spirit of fraternity, equality, justice and peace.

Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar Dubai has also been instrumental in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding. Through its various initiatives, such as seminars, workshops, and interfaith prayer gatherings, the Gurudwara has facilitated meaningful conversations between different religious communities, promoting respect, harmony, and a shared vision of peaceful coexistence.

Sharing material wealth and largesse is a calling as is service and the cleansing of the soul by engaging in the most menial of tasks which we perform with joy in our hearts even when it is penance for a transgression we may have committed. It is with these priorities that the House of Worship – The Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara was built in the UAE, mentions Surender Singh Kandhari, Chairman Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara Dubai.

The challenges we face in the world today are manifold. We see wars, conflicts, and violence often occurring in the name of religion, and our environment is suffering due to our unsustainable practices. It is in times like these that the importance of unity, compassion and cooperation among people of all faith becomes even more evident. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we, as individuals and as members of various faith communities, join hands to address the pressing global issues of our time. Together, we can strive for a world where the principles of love, compassion, and shared responsibility for our planet prevail over division and conflict. In the spirit of interfaith dialogue and cooperation, we can make a significant difference in creating a more peaceful and sustainable future for all, quotes Mr. Kandhari.

The Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, Vatican City sends you cordial greetings on the occasion of the Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, celebrated worldwide this year on 27 November. May all your festive events bring you joy and peace and help enhance the spirit of unity and solidarity in your families and communities.  As believers with shared convictions and concerns for the wellbeing of all and that of the earth, may we Christians and Sikhs, joining hands with everyone who cares for the welfare of humanity, endeavour to do all we can to bring about a positive change in climatic conditions and become responsible and genuine stewards of creation!

We wish you all a Happy Prakash Diwas of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji!

On this auspicious occasion of the birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, I extend my heartfelt greetings and best wishes to the entire Sikh community at Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara Dubai. As we celebrate this joyous occasion, let us also remember the importance of unity and harmony. In the spirit of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings, let us come together as a community to support one another, regardless of differences, and work towards creating a more compassionate and inclusive society. May we continue to walk the path of righteousness and spread the message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji to all corners of the world, Surender Singh Kandhari, Chairman, Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar Dubai.

Asia News Community UK News

Let’s Talk Lung Cancer

Giant lung roadshow tours England to encourage South Asian community to act on early lung cancer symptoms. The roadshow will travel around the country throughout the month of November – Lung Cancer Awareness Month – as part of the NHS Help Us, Help You campaign. The roadshow aims to begin conversations about the illness and its symptoms

The NHS will visit thousands of people in England’s lung cancer hotspots with giant inflatable lungs this month, to raise awareness of potential cancer symptoms and help catch cancer earlier.

The Let’s Talk Lung Cancer roadshow, run between NHS England and Roy Castle Lung Foundation, kicks off as new survey data reveals that just a third of (33%) South Asian respondents would see their GP if they had a cough for three weeks or more. While more than a quarter (28%) of South Asian individuals surveyed believe that lung cancer only affects smokers.

Over half (55%) of South Asian survey respondents also believed that or were unsure whether lung cancer only affects a small number of people every year in England, when in fact it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths in the UK. 

Nasim Panjwani

Nasim, 65 , is recovering from lung cancer following removal of part of her left lung. She initially went to see her GP as she was losing weight and didn’t know why.

“I have never smoked, so I didn’t ever think it could be lung cancer,” said Nasim. “However, when my friends and family started pointing out that I was looking thin I thought I should get checked out.’ 

Diagnosing lung cancer early dramatically increases people’s chances of survival – those diagnosed at stages one or two are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years or more than those whose cancer is caught at later stages. As such, Nasim wants to encourage more people to come forward if they have symptoms.

Nasim said:The best thing that could come from my diagnosis and treatment would be that others read my story and go and see their GP as a result. If you’ve had a cough for three weeks or more, or something feels not quite right, please get medical advice and give yourself the best chance.”

As part of the roadshow, specialist teams of volunteers will assist the campaign to educate the public and help catch more cancers early. Thousands of people are expected to see the giant inflatable lungs in communities across the country – including supermarkets, shopping centres and local high streets – with the public urged to get checked if they have signs and symptoms.

The inflatable organs allow visitors to observe and learn about typical lung structures, lung health, and the effects of smoking.

Community engagement teams and volunteers will be on hand to talk to members of the public and encourage those with suspected symptoms to visit their GP as soon as possible.

This comes as survey data also shows that just over a third (34%) of South Asian people surveyed would visit their GP if they had a chest infection that kept coming back, and a similar percentage would do the same if they had a loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss (36%), which are lesser-known signs of lung cancer.

Dr. Jyoti Sood said: “Tens of thousands of people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in England, but it’s clear from the survey that many people in our community still think it’s not something that can affect them. This campaign is really important in raising awareness of the symptoms – like a cough lasting for three weeks or more – and encouraging people to get seen by a medical professional as early as possible. We know that early diagnosis gives the best chance of effective treatment and survival.’

Chief Executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Paula Chadwick, said: “It is staggering that so many of those surveyed still do not know how prevalent lung cancer is. We believe this stems from a reluctance, even aversion, to talking about lung cancer, and that is largely because of its links to smoking and associated stigma.

“That’s why these events are so important. They give us the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with people who may not realise they are at risk, who may not recognise potential symptoms or could feel unable to act on them.

“If we can help just one person get diagnosed earlier when lung cancer can be treated more easily, then that is worth doing”.

The roadshow will travel around the country throughout the month of November – Lung Cancer Awareness Month – as part of the NHS Help Us, Help You campaign. The roadshow aims to begin conversations about the illness and its symptoms.

The NHS’s Help Us, Help You lung cancer campaign focuses specifically on raising awareness of the key symptom of lung cancer – a cough that lasts for three weeks or more. While it might seem like nothing serious, if it is cancer, finding it early means it’s more treatable and can save lives. The campaign will encourage those who have this symptom to contact their GP practice and remind the public that the NHS wants to see them.

In addition to the symptom of a cough for three weeks or more, other symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • chest infections that keep coming back
  • coughing up blood
  • a long-standing cough that gets worse
  • an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • persistent breathlessness
  • persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
Community India News London News

International Conference on Sindh Organised in London

Organised at the University of Westminster Harrow Campus, the day long event had attendees descending in London from different parts of the world.

Robust panel discussions and presentations on the challenges of Sindhi community adorned the 35th International Conference on Sindh by World Sindhi Congress recently. Organised at the University of Westminster Harrow Campus, the day long event had attendees descending in London from different parts of the world.

Starting with the panel on British-Sindhi Diaspora, the topics ranged from Mismanagement of Indus Water to Human Rights and Forced Conversions of Sindhi Hindu girls in Pakistan (video presentations), to Self-determination right and global Sindhi alliances. A welcome message was rendered by Fahmida Khushik and Rukshana Bhutto, and introductory lines about the conference and WSC by Hafeezan Wadhio, followed by panel discussions.

Stellar panels included Shahzado Wadhio (Sindhi Sangat UK), Fahmida Khushik (International Sindhi Women Organisation, UK), Faraz Ahmed Khokhar (Sindhi Youth Club, UK), Imdad Odho (Radio Voice of Sindh, London), Ved Luhana (World Sindhi Congress, UK), Chandru Gidoomal (Sindhi Association of UK), Qambar Baloch (Baloch Human Rights Council, UK), Dr Lakhu Luhana (World Sindhi Congress), Prof. Fiona McConnell (Oxford University), representatives of Baloch Movement, Hassan Dost Baloch, Kim Putheaney (Global Human Rights Defence- GHDR, Netherlands), Prof. Rafiq A Chandio (University of Sindh), Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed (Sweden), Ms Veengas (The Rise News, Sindh), Harris Khalique (Human Rights Commission, Pakistan), Hajan Kalhoro (WSC, Canada), Narayan Bablani (India), Dr Maqbool Halepota (Sindhi Association of America- SANA), and Dr Rubina Shaikh (Chair, WSC). Gul Sanai, Fahmida Khushik, Dr Sagir Shaikh, Farhan Kaghzi, and Dr Hidayat Bhutto have moderated the panels that were thought-provoking.

A minute’s silence was observed to pay respectful tributes to deceased Gul Hassan Kalmati, Raj Kumar Wanjara, Sundar Agnani and Bashir Ahmed Shahani. Poetry for the Soul by Roohi Kalhoro, Harris Khalique & Sami Baloch, and Sindhi Live Music Concert by Pooja Vazirani (India), Alghozo player Nathan Torrence (USA) captivated the attendees. Umed Leghari outlined plans of World Sindhi Congress for the forthcoming year and Fiza Kalhoro presented the conference resolutions.

-Top News Australia Community

Australia Votes in Historic Indigenous Voice Referendum

In order for the constitution to be changed, the “yes” vote must secure a double majority.

Polling booths across Australia opened on Saturday for the country’s first ever referendum in the 21st century, with voters to decide on whether or not to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Millions of Australians will on Saturday vote “yes” or “no” on the proposal to alter the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing the voice, which would advise the federal Parliament on all issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, reports Xinhua news agency.

In order for the constitution to be changed, the “yes” vote must secure a double majority, meaning that more than 50 per cent voters nationally, as well as a majority in at least four out of Australia’s six states, must vote in favor.

In a final pitch to voters on Friday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the referendum was an opportunity for Australia to “do better”.

“We have an opportunity for Australians to do better. To do better to show respect for the first Australians, but to do something for ourselves, as well, because we will feel better. We will feel better about ourselves on Sunday with a Yes vote,” he said at a press conference in South Australia.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) personnel will start counting the votes as they close at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

According to the AEC, voting is mandatory for Australians aged 18 and over who are registered on the electoral roll (about 17.7 million people), while by the close of business on Wednesday, approximately four million people have voted at an early voting centre.  

The Voice to Parliament was recommended by a historic document in 2017 called the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Drafted by more than 250 Indigenous leaders, the statement is considered the best — though not unanimous — call to action for reforms on issues affecting First Nations Australians.

It also lays out a longer process of treaty-making and truth-telling.

The issue, however has been a fierce topic of debate for years as country has not had a successful referendum in almost 50 years.

If approved, the vote would recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country’s constitution, and establish a permanent body for them to give advice on laws.

The composition, functions and powers of the body, whose advice would not be binding, would then be designed and debated by Parliament.

ALSO READ: Australia Interested in Business Tie-Up With Kerala

Community Kerala

MASHE … The story of Ki Ki Master Of Palakkad

Unfortunately, opportunities for English education were scarce in his village in Palakkad. Undeterred, Vappa embarked on a grueling journey, walking 20 miles each day (as owning a bicycle was a luxury for a farmer’s family) to attend school in Alathur and later to join a Teacher’s Training College in Coimbatore. He became the first from the Ravuther families in Palakkad to attain this qualification … writes Kaliph Anaz to mark Teacher’s Day

Today is Teacher’s Day. I am reminded of my Vappa (grandpa), Mohammed Ravuther, affectionately known as Thoppi Vappa due to his ever-present Hat. He was a teacher, and being a part of his family, I feel a deep connection to the teaching world. My own career began in teaching and still occasionally finds its way back there like teaching journalism at Kerala Media Academy. They say we owe our success to our parents’ sacrifices, and while that is true, in our Aattukkara Family, credit also goes to my Grand Dad, who changed the fate of our humble farming Ravuther family.

Vappa’s family had relocated from Thirunelveli from Tamil Nadu to British Malabar during a severe drought in their village. They eked out a living in Palakkad through farming, weaving, and raising goats, earning them the moniker “Aattukara,” the family with goats as its symbol. Vappa himself contributed to the family’s labour force. However, fate took an unexpected turn when he had a chance encounter with a Dorai (British Officer). Vappa was determined to learn the language of the rulers of Malabar, the Ghora Sahibs, who spoke English and held power. Instead of sticking to his mother tongue, Tamil, he resolved to master the language of the Ghoras.

Mohammed Ravuther aka Ki Ki Master

Unfortunately, opportunities for English education were scarce in his village. Undeterred, he embarked on a gruelling journey, walking 20 miles each day (as owning a bicycle was a luxury for a farmer’s family) to attend school in Alathur and later to join a Teacher’s Training College in Coimbatore. He became the first from the Ravuther families in Palakkad to attain this qualification. Due to his soft-spoken nature, people affectionately referred to him as “Ki Ki Master” – the master with a feeble voice. All six of his sons went on to become government officers – eldest son Abdul Kareem, Post-master, P&T Department; Mohammed Ismail, Teacher; Abdul Azeez, Engineer, P&T Department; Abdul Khader, Station Master, Indian Railways; Abdul Rahman, Indian Air Force; Akbar Basha, Defence, Cordite Factory, Aruvankadu. All of whom chose to remain in independent India despite tempting offers to relocate to Pakistan. We were born here, we will die here!

Vappa was a strict teacher who did not shy away from using the cane, a common practice in those days. Many households displayed a cane on their walls as both a warning and a deterrent from trouble. We grew up as a family of educated (Padichavar), thanks to Vappa’s influence. He instilled in us the habit of reading “The Hindu,” a Palakkad tradition that evolved as we grew, starting with reading the headlines in primary school, moving on to copy in secondary school, and ultimately comprehending “The Hindu” editorials in college. A graduate in Palakkad means a guy who can understand The Hindu, including its editorials without referring to a dictionary.

Periyappa Kareem Master, Mohammed Ravuther aka Ki Ki Master and Abdul Azeez Ravuther

During vacations in Palakkad, Vappa would take us to meet his outstanding students at Civil Station, District Court, Colleges, and Schools. These accomplished civil servants would stand before him with unwavering respect, reverting to the role of students in front of their master. I still cherish memories of my Grandpa, who was meticulous about grammar (Wren & Martin) and vocabulary, the two pillars of mastering any language. He set aside all other subjects to teach us English and introduced me to the works of Dickens. Poor Oliver, the innocent protagonist; the conniving Fagin; the stern Mr. Bumble – these characters have left an indelible mark on my mind. He was also an ardent fan of MGR and Sivaji, and I watched MGR’s “Nadodi Mannan” and Sivaji’s “Gauravam” with him at New Theatre and Gowder Talkies, creating unforgettable memories. I vividly recall the sight of him, radiating with pride, as Sivaji’s Veerapandiya Katta Bomman boldly challenged Jackson Dorai with that iconic dialogue that ends with the curse…. Maanam Kettavane (Shameless!). He might have found great satisfaction in witnessing a Tamilian boldly labelling an Englishman as “shameless.” After all, his forefathers had stood alongside Tipu Sultan in defiance of the English, leaving behind a proud legacy for the Ravuthers.

Palakkad, with its Tipu’s Fort, Noorani Agraharam, Puthupalli Theruv, Bharatha Puzha, Malampuzha Dam & Garden, Valiyangadi, Manjakulam … felt like my very own Malgudi. There was plenty to do during vacations, and my cousins Naushad and Babu eagerly awaited my arrival. We spent hours sliding down concrete slides in front of the fort, much like Swami and his friends in Malgudi. We spoiled many trousers…

Vappa was a humble Ravuther, and people would stand in reverence as he walked down Puthuppalli Theruvu (street), addressing him as “Mashe” – Teacher. That one word encapsulated all the respect a teacher held in Kerala. MASHE … People sought his advice regarding their children’s education, and he would help write complaints, grievances, and loan applications, a tradition our family still upholds. Many of my cousins like Dr Abdul Sathar, Dilshad, Sakariya, Kamal are active in community service after retirement, carrying forward Vappa’s legacy. Vappa’s sons carry that transition in their spare time and find time to teach after retirement. As a family, we are blessed with his knowledge, discipline, and principles. The Aattukara family now boasts doctors, engineers, lawyers, journalists, pharmacists, writers, film directors, and teachers, among others, showcasing the profound impact of Thoppi Vappa’s journey.

Abdul Azeez Ravuther, Ismail Master and Abdullah Ravuther

Vappa’s decision to learn a new language and change our family’s destiny was remarkable. He was a simple Ravuther who took that crucial first step – The decision to walk 10 miles to learn a language. His first step becomes the first move for our family to rewrite our fate. We are what we are now because of him. His decision to walk 20 miles every day put our family on another pedestal.

We owe a heartfelt salute to Thoppi Vappa, the teacher who walked 20 miles each day to master a language and brighten the lives of countless others, including ours. Teaching is truly one of the noblest professions. Happy Teacher’s Day.

A scene from Veerapandiya Kattabomman, the favourite scene of Vappa
Community India News

Sufism fostering communal harmony in Jammu and Kashmir

Arif Mohammed Khan, Governor of Kerala presided over the conference organised by Cluster University of Srinagar in collaboration with J&K Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages…reports Asian Lite News

During a conference on Sufism in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha expressed that Sufism embodies a way of life that promotes and advocates for communal harmony, love, and peace among individuals. The event, organized by Cluster University of Srinagar in collaboration with J&K Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages, was presided over by Governor of Kerala, Arif Mohammed Khan. In his speech, Khan acknowledged the significant contributions of Lal Ded, Nund Rishi, Sufis, and Saints from Jammu and Kashmir in enhancing the sense of unity and togetherness.

“Our ancient heritage teaches us peace, love and humanity. The people of all religions, all sects are one family. The continuity of our culture, values, traditions is the biggest power of India that empowers our great nation to flourish,” Khan said.

Sinha highlighted the influence of Sufism in the culture and traditions of Jammu Kashmir.

“Harmonious relationship among all sects, individuals and relationship with the whole existence without distinction is real Sufism. It is way of life that promotes and propagates ideals of communal harmony, love and peace among the people.

“J&K is the land of Rishis and Sufis. It is the land which respects all spiritual and religious streams. Those who had created trouble in this paradise have been decimated, and supporters of terrorism and separatism have been neutralised to establish peace and harmony in the society,” Sinha said.

LG shared the transformational journey of UT of J&K towards peace, prosperity and inclusive development.

“Earlier, shutdown calls were a regular feature in the valley by a handful of people for their vested interests. However, it was common man who used to bear the brunt. Those days are gone now,” he said.

“Peace is prevailing, nightlife has returned and people are living freely. Today is also a historic occasion when Muharram procession was taken out peacefully in Srinagar after a gap of over 30 years,” Sinha said.

Sinha also congratulated the Cluster University of Srinagar and the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages for their endeavour to promote the Sufi traditions.

He called upon the people to embrace the Rishi-Sufi traditions and eliminate all traces of communal divide to strengthen unity.

ALSO READ-Impact of Sufism in the social fabric of Kashmir

Community India News Punjab

Sikh Diaspora: weaving a legacy of entrepreneurial excellence

Sikh musicians and artists like Amandeep Singh, Manpreet Singh, and Amrita Shergill have done remarkable work in their fields…reports Saloni Poddar/Santa

The Sikh diaspora refers to the modern migration of Sikhs from the traditional region of Punjab state of India.In the confluence of global cultures, the Sikh community stands out as a vibrant and prominent thread weaving a legacy of unparalleled achievements.

The Sikh diaspora has spread its wings across the globe, leaving an indelible mark on various domains and enriching the communities they inhabit. From pioneering entrepreneurial ventures to fostering social harmony, Sikhs have exemplified the values of their faith, driving change and fostering inclusivity.In the realm of entrepreneurship, Sikhs have emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

From humble beginnings to commanding positions in global industries, they have displayed exemplary grit and ingenuity. One such trailblazer is Jasminder Singh, CEO of Raddison Blue, an Edwardian Brand, and The May Fair Hotel. Ranjit Singh Boparan is the founder and owner of 2 Sisters Food Group, he is also known as the ‘Chicken King’ in the West Midlands.

Education has been a cornerstone of Sikh Values, and the diaspora has diligently championed this cause globally. Sikhs have actively established educational institutions and scholarship programs to uplift communities. The Sikh Foundation was founded in 1967 by Dr. Narinder. S. Kapany, It promotes the heritage and future of Sikhism by passing on the essence of Sikh heritage to the ever-growing Sikh diaspora, especially the youth, by spreading progressive ethics, lyrical mysticism, and heroism of Sikhs and generating resources for the academic and autistic study of Sikhism. Furthermore, scholars like Har Gobind Khorana, Nobel laureate in Physiology of Medicine, have made groundbreaking contributions to the field of biotechnology.

The vibrant world of art, music, and literature has been enriched by the Sikh diaspora since time immemorial. Writers and poets like Navtej Bharti, Rupi Kaur, and Khushwant Singh have illuminated the literary landscape with their profound Storytelling. Sikh musicians and artists like Amandeep Singh, Manpreet Singh, and Amrita Shergill have done remarkable work in their fields.

Talking about colonial diaspora, we cannot ignore the Kenyans of Punjabi origin, brought by the British to build the Mombasa – Nairobi African line way back in 1896. Newer generations of these Sikhs are now thriving and residing in Kenya as leaders in spheres of business, trade, medicine, freedom struggle, academics, and even sports. They enjoy a special place in the hearts of the natives because when they arrived about 125 years ago, their forefathers like Shaheed Udham Singh and Namdhari sect chief, Satguru Jagjit Singh, joined the locals in their struggle for freedom. What is commendable here is that when they were sent here, the Sikhs carried Guru Granth Sahib with them and set it up in a makeshift structure called Makindu Sahib which is now a shrine to be reckoned with, having a Darbar Hall, an ultra-modern kitchen, langar hall, a whooping 92 rooms for visitors, a museum and a library! There is also Gurudwara Railways Landhis, in Nairobi built in 1902 having all modern amenities.

Then there are Canadian Sikhs! There are people like Bob Dhillon who donated $10 million to the University of Lethbridge for futuristic learning through new technologies like blockchain, cryptocurrencies, AI, and robotics. In 2011, he donated the use of 100 apartments for people displaced by fire in Alberta.

Barjinder Singh born and brought up in Canada, is the founder of Guru Nanak Mission and Medical and Educational Trust which operates a hospital as well as a nursing school. He is also the chairperson of IC-IMPACTS which is currently working on the clean Ganga Mission and a founding donor of the Canada-India Centre for Excellence in Ottawa. These are just a couple of examples, Punjabi – Canadians have been working on building bridges in both India and Canada, in individual as well as in official capacities.

Besides famous and influential personalities, a beturbaned man, in any part of the world, is comforting and heartening and there are ample instances to prove this fact! Gurtaj landed at the crowded Rio de Janeiro airport in 2019, excited to spend a few days in the capital. He was shocked when suddenly a man requested him, mobile phone in his outstretched hand, to talk to a Sikh friend living in Brazil who hadn’t talked to a fellow Sikh in years. Then there is a saga of Sikhs in Argentina who migrated to the provinces of Salta, Tucuman, San Luis, and Santa Fe around 1908 and did not go back. Their children and grandchildren are totally integrated into the local community. In a small town called Rosario de la Frontera, they have built a Gurudwara cum community center to stay connected to their roots.

There is no end to these heartwarming stories as the Sikh diaspora creates a trail of ‘sewa’ and companionship wherever they settle. Once a Sikh in Iraq loaned a man some money to get medical aid for his ailing wife at a hospital, all without even asking his name or address. In another story, a student in the USA was stunned when a fellow Sikh stopped him in the middle of the road to invite him over to his place for dinner. It isn’t uncommon for a Gujarati woman traveler, with a toddler in tow, to stop a Sikh man in a turban to ask for help or directions!

The distinctive turban and beard set a Sikh apart in foreign lands and people vouch for the fact that a Sikh would always be helpful, no matter what, especially in unfamiliar terrain because they relate to the struggle themselves. The Sikh diaspora is an embodiment of unwavering commitment to societal progress. They have established themselves as ambassadors of change, fostering compassion worldwide. From education to entrepreneurship to public service and philanthropy, the Sikhs’ accomplishments reflect the core tenets of their faith and serve as a testament to the power of unity and equality. The world stands for richer for the rich tapestry of Sikh contributions that continue to shape the global community.

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Challenging societal norms through clothing 

We have all witnessed the evolving landscape of fashion, where our wives, daughters, and women, in general, are breaking free from the confines of gender-specific clothing…reports Asian Lite News

In recent years, there has been a remarkable shift in the perception and expression of gender identity, both globally and in India. One powerful aspect of this movement is the rise of gender-neutral clothing, which enables individuals to dress in a way that aligns with their own unique identity, rather than conforming to societal expectations.

The market demand for gender-neutral clothing has been steadily rising. According to a report by GlobalData, the global gender-neutral fashion market was valued at $27 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.5 percent from 2020 to 2027. No wonder, many mainstream fashion brands have started to incorporate gender-neutral collections into their offerings

We have all witnessed the evolving landscape of fashion, where our wives, daughters, and women, in general, are breaking free from the confines of gender-specific clothing. They proudly showcase their prowess in un-gendering fashion and embrace a more fluid and inclusive approach to their attire. Let us take a serious look at how gender-neutral clothing is revolutionizing the fashion industry and creating a more inclusive world for the global LGBTQA+ community, including the vibrant community in India.

Breaking Free from Gender Stereotypes

For far too long, fashion has been confined by rigid gender norms, dictating what is considered appropriate attire for men and women. Gender-neutral clothing defies these stereotypes by offering a more fluid and versatile approach to personal style. It encourages individuals to express themselves authentically without the fear of judgment or exclusion based on societal expectations. By rejecting the idea that clothing should be limited to specific genders, we open the doors to a world where self-expression is celebrated and diversity is embraced.

Empowering Self-Expression

Gender-neutral clothing empowers individuals to define their own sense of style, free from the constraints of gender norms. It provides a platform for creative expression, allowing people to mix and match different styles, colours, and silhouettes without feeling restricted by the gender binary. This freedom to experiment with fashion not only enhances personal expression but also encourages self-acceptance and boosts self-confidence. It enables individuals to present themselves authentically, fostering a sense of belonging within the LGBTQA+ community and beyond.

Gender Neutral Clothing Ensures Inclusivity for All

The impact of gender-neutral clothing extends far beyond the LGBTQA+ community. It promotes inclusivity for people of all genders, including those who identify as non-binary, genderqueer, or genderfluid. By challenging the notion that clothing should be limited to masculine or feminine designs, fashion becomes a more accessible and welcoming space for everyone. This revolution is gradually dismantling the barriers that have long separated fashion by gender, allowing people to wear what they love and feel comfortable in, regardless of societal expectations.

How to Further Generate Education and Awareness?

Social media platforms have played a significant role in popularizing gender-neutral fashion. Influencers and activists on platforms like Instagram and TikTok have created a space for discussions, fashion inspiration, and sharing of gender-neutral outfits. This online community has contributed to the normalisation and acceptance of gender-neutral clothing. Thus, now it comes to basic education – schools, media, and communities can play a vital role in providing comprehensive information about gender diversity and celebrating individuality. By incorporating these topics into curricula, workshops, and public discussions, we can create a generation that is more accepting and understanding of different gender expressions.

What is the Fashion Industry’s Role?

The fashion industry plays a pivotal role in driving societal change and fostering inclusivity. In recent years, many designers, brands, and retailers have embraced the concept of gender-neutral clothing. They are not only creating collections that cater to diverse gender identities but also challenging the existing norms by featuring genderqueer models and dismantling traditional fashion presentations. This industry-wide support is instrumental in breaking down stereotypes and promoting acceptance on a global scale.

Design Innovation Amid Gender-Inclusive Sizing and Retail

Fashion designers will continue to push boundaries and explore innovative designs that cater to diverse gender identities. Materials and technologies will advance, allowing for garments that are both stylish and adaptable, accommodating different body types and preferences. Customizable and modular clothing will become more prevalent, enabling individuals to express their unique identities through personalized fashion choices. The fashion industry will move away from the traditional binary sizing system, recognizing the need for gender-inclusive measurements.

Inclusive Representation at Fashion Events

The future of fashion will embrace greater diversity and representation. Designers, brands, and retailers will prioritize inclusivity in their campaigns, fashion shows, and advertisements. Unlike a handful of Rainbow Fashion shows today, the future will have a wider range of LGBTQA+ models who will showcase diverse gender identities, body types, ages, and cultural backgrounds. This inclusive representation will foster a sense of belonging and promote self-acceptance within the LGBTQA+ community and beyond.

Gender-neutral clothing represents a significant step towards challenging societal norms and fostering inclusivity. By breaking free from traditional gender expectations, individuals can express themselves authentically and confidently. Let us continue to support and embrace the global LGBTQA+ community, advocating for a world where everyone can dress and live without fear of judgment or exclusion. 

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OIC urges media to confront Islamophobia

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called for cinematic, television and radio productions to confront Islamophobia and insults against religious symbols, reports Asian Lite News

The General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on public and private media in Member States to direct their cinematic, television, radio, journalistic and social media to present products to combat Islamophobia and insults against religious symbols, and to clarify and strengthen the tolerant principles of Islam calling for coexistence, tolerance and respect for the other and renouncing violence, intolerance and hatred.

The call came in the statement delivered by the Director of the OIC Information Department, Mr. Wajdi Ali Sindi, at the emergency meeting of OIC States Broadcasting Union (OSBU) to discuss a mechanism for confronting desecration of religious sanctities in the media following the incident of burning a copy of the Holy Qur’an in the Swedish capital.

Mr. Sindi indicated that the Final Communique of the OIC Emergency open-ended meeting of the Executive Committee, regarding the incident, held on July 2, 2023 at the headquarters of the General Secretariat, included 26 items that constituted a road map and an integrated plan to address the recurrence of such incidents and insulting sacred religious symbols.

It called for collective efforts at the level of national parliaments, the media and civil society organizations, to pronounce the OIC position and urge the relevant authorities to take the necessary legislative measures to criminalize such attacks.

Mr. Sindi pointed out that, through its Department of Information and the Islamophobia Observatory, and its media arms represented by the Standing Committee for Information and Cultural Affairs (COMIAC), the OIC States Broadcasting Union (OSBU), and the Union of News Agencies (UNA), the OIC is making great efforts with its partners, to enhance understanding of the responsible use of freedom of expression in the media , and to establish national mechanisms to hold accountable the media that continue to feed hate speech and intolerance, and implementing the OIC media strategy to combat Islamophobia.

ALSO READ: OIC seeks global action against religious hatred