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Environmentalists lose eco battle to Sri Sri of Art of Living Fame

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Thousands of followers of Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gather for a performance at a three-day festival in New Delhi, India, organized by the guru’s “Art of Living” foundation, March 11, 2016. CBS

(Diya TV) — Over the weekend, thousands of people from 155 countries flocked to New Delhi for a vast cultural festival, which sought to promote the message of unity and peace — Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s “Art of Living” foundation faced staunch opposition, and fines, from India’s National Green Tribunal because of the chosen venue: the banks of the polluted Yamuna River.

The tribunal fined Ravi Shankar 50m rupees for its construction of features that altered the topography and flow of a Delhi river before the festival.

Environmentalists accused the Hindu guru, and his organization, which runs centers around the world and in the U.S., of ignoring strict environmental policies with the construction of the festival’s huge stage and occupying an area which extended nearly 600 yards for the festival’s audience on the riverbank. Additionally, the activists say the festival will cause irreversible damage by compacting the soil and destroying the delicate ecosystem which is in place. Some of the area’s native bird populations have already disappeared as a direct result, the activists claim.

As a result, India’s National Green Tribunal was petitioned by the activists to stop the event, however, India’s environmental court gave the event the go-ahead just hours before the event was set to kickoff. But it ordered the Art of Living Foundation pay the fine, which amounts to more than $746,000 American, and chastized Indian government authorities for allowing such a massive event on the river’s bank.

The court also warned that no such event should be allowed on the river banks in the future.

Faiyaz Khudsar, who is in charge of the Yamuna Biodiversity Park, said the festival would carry “catastrophic” consequences for the wildlife along the river.

“The marshes and wetlands may have been silted or filled up resulting in the disturbance of the ecosystem. It will take some time to find out the exact damage. What it requires now is ecological intervention by humans, which takes a lot of time,” said Khudsar.

Manoj Mishra, who heads the Mission for Yamuna, the group which filed the petition with the court to block the event from happening along the river, said the event was a violation of measures put in place during 2015 aimed at improving the environment. He said a court-approved project, the Revitalization Project of 2017, was being “brazenly violated by clearing of vegetation, dumping of debris and earth, leveling of flood plain, destruction of biodiversity and construction activity.”

The barren landscape left behind after a massive festival on the banks of the Yamuna River in New Delhi, India, March 14, 2016. CBS/ARSHAD ZARGAR

The barren landscape left behind after a massive festival on the banks of the Yamuna River in New Delhi, India, March 14, 2016. CBS/ARSHAD ZARGAR

 

Ravi Shankar, who has an estimated 300 million followers in more than 150 countries worldwide, said he would rather go to jail than pay the fine. However, he ultimately changed his mind, agreeing to pay the amount as “compensation” for restoration work on the river.

Jha, the environmentalist, claims his black-flag protests outside the festival were stopped by police. He told CBS News, that allowing Ravi Shankar to pay the fine and continue with the festival could be compared to “someone who seeks to rape a woman and then compensate her.” He added: “Should we allow him to rape the woman? They are raping a river.”

Ravi Shankar has maintained that the festival could not and would not damage the river in any way. His organization contracted the services of environmentalists that insisted him of such, he said.

“We will make a proper plan and do something for the Yamuna. I have consulted top environmentalists, who have done a study and said that no harm will be done to the floodplains.”

Instead, Ravi Shankar suggested the festival will help the river.

“We have not built any permanent structures. We will ensure that the place is left cleaner and more beautified,” Art of Living spokesperson Dinesh Ghodke said. The event was estimated to attract an attendance of about 3.5 million, according to the foundation. However, due to heavy rain, the numbers were lower.

The festival was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attended by top ministers in his cabinet. The guru has been observed publicly as a close friend of the prime minister, and in Indian Parliament, opposition parties questioned the reason behind the Modi government’s backing for the controversial event.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses guru Sri Sri Ravishankar's World Culture Festival on the banks of the Yamuna River in New Delhi, India, March 11, 2016. Ravishankar can be seen seated, at right, behind Modi. Reuters

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Culture Festival on the banks of the Yamuna River in New Delhi, India, March 11, 2016. Ravi Shankar can be seen seated, at right, behind Modi. Reuters

 

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee was scheduled to be in attendance as well, but pulled out just days before the controversy surrounding the environmental impact of the festival began.

Arts & Culture

Donald Trump takes subtle jab at FCC Chairman Ajit Pai during Diwali ceremony

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WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — President Donald Trump took time to appreciate and honor fellow South Asian members in his administration during a Diwali celebration, but he did also manage to throw a jab at Ajit Pai.

Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was criticized by Trump earlier this year during the Sinclair-Tribune merger which halted the conservative local news giants.

The decision made by Pai, a conservative, infuriated Trump:

Fast forward to the Diwali celebration at the White House, the president managed to bring it up again. After raving about how “grateful” he was to have numerous Americans of Indian and Southeast Asian heritage in critical roles and who’ve done an “incredible job,” the remark was unfitting.

After singling out Pai, he reflected on some of that “incredible” and said the following:

“”I just didn’t like one decision he made, but that’s alright,” he joked, then he subtracted some of that “alright,” adding: “not even a little bit, but he’s independent.”

Pai, who is of Indian American descent, was designated by Trump in January 2017 — becoming the first Indian American to hold the office.

The Harvard and Chicago Law School graduate previously served as commissioner of the FCC after being appointed by former president Barack Obama.

Though Trump didn’t elaborate much after pointing him out, it has been noted that Pai carries a heavy load in how media is presented.

Pai’s decision to reverse Sinclair’s merger was based on his stance of the people’s interest and keeping media diverse throughout the country.

Along with first amendment best practices, Pai is focusing on issues relating to broadband, public safety and fiscal responsibility.

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Bollywood sweethearts Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh tie the knot in Italy

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Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh getting married by Lake Cuomo in Italy. Seen here in there 'Konkani' Wedding Ceremony. Photo: Twitter.com
Bollywood superstars Deepika Padukone & Ranveer Singh tie the knot in Lake Como, Italy

LAKE CUOMO, Italy — Bollywood sweetheart couple, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh have officially tied the knot at a private villa against the scenic Lake Como backdrop, in Italy. The two-day ceremony included a ‘Konkani‘ style ceremony as well as ‘Sindhi‘ ceremony to bring these two Bollywood stars into matrimony.

The couple released two pictures on twitter, with a simple heart emoji

The newlyweds began their love story on screen, sharing intimate moments in films like ‘Ramleela’,’Bajirao Mastani‘ and Padmavat.

According to the Huffington Post, film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali said ‘cut’ during their kiss toward the end, but they continued their sizzling moment as over 50 crew members mesmerizingly watched. It was the start of a blossoming relationship, forging together a Bollywood power couple with chemistry on and off set.

The much awaited wedding ceremony left no stone unturned to celebrate this star couple in grand style with an intensely private and synchronized affair set against at Italy’s scenic Lake Como backdrop, at Villa del Balbianello.

Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh getting married by Lake Cuomo in Italy. Seen here in there 'Sindhi' Wedding Ceremony. Photo: Twitter.com

Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh getting married by Lake Cuomo in Italy. Seen here in there ‘Sindhi’ Wedding Ceremony. Photo: Twitter.com

An Indian Bollywood wedding without a celeb designer? I think not. The duo opted to go with veteran designer Sabyasachi Mukherji. ‘Sabya‘ as fans often call him, drew inspiration from the wedding ceremony theme and designed decadent outfits in shades of red, pink and all things ‘shaadi‘ for both the ‘Konkani‘ & ‘Sindhi‘ ceremonies. Deepika wore a veil with the words,”Sada Saubhyagyavati Bhava” embroidered along the hem draped over her head. This mantra translates to “be forever fortunate” is often a blessing given to newly weds, wishing them a ‘happily ever after’ life ahead.

Ofcourse no Bollywood wedding is complete without all the ‘Badhaai‘ or well wishes from fellow co-stars, most of who took to twitter to shower the newly minted couple.

A Bollywood wedding, without some ‘filmy’ elements is nearly impossible. According to Filmfare, Singh made his grand entry on Govinda’s hit song ‘Meri Pant Bhi Sexy’, continuing with ‘Chunari Chunari’ and ‘One Two Ka Four‘ as he reached the wedding venue with his family and relatives.

With heavy security for this intensely private ceremony, the couple remained sensitive to the plight of hundreds of fans & paparazzi gathered to capture a glimpse of their special event. They sent gift packs of sweets to the media, thanking them for their wishes.

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Trump celebrates Diwali with diya lighting ceremony in the White House

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White House Diwali Diya Lighting ceremony.

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — President Donald Trump took part in a Diwali celebration Tuesday at the White House where he held a ceremonial lighting of the ‘diya‘. The diya lighting ceremony, Trump used the time to discuss the ties between the U.S. and India which he stated were perhaps closer than ever before. He began by saying how thrilled and special it was to be part of the celebration. Shortly after, Trump gave high praise for the contributions Indian Americans have displayed in the country and in his administration. He began the ceremony by first addressing the victims of fires in California.

He continued to introduce several Indian Americans members of his team and then welcomed Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Navtej Sarna.

With an attendee list of roughly 20 notable Indian Americans within his administration, Trump added onto the growing number during the event as he nominated Neomi Rao to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit.

“We were going to announce that tomorrow and I said, ‘Here we are Neomi — we’re never gonna do better than this’ — I thought it was an appropriate place.”

Rao, born to Indian parents, is a graduate of Yale and University of Chicago Law School. She recently spent time as an associate law professor at George Mason and an administrator in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. She responded by saying: “Thank you very much, Mr. President, for the confidence you’ve shown in me. I greatly appreciate it.”

“Our nation is blessed to be home to millions of hardworking citizens of Indian and southeast Asian heritage, who enrich our country in countless ways. Together we are one proud American family. I’m grateful to have numerous Americans of Indian and southeast Asian heritage who fulfill critical roles across my administration, and they’ve done an incredible job.”

However, President Trump failed to mention the largest group of Indian Americans, the ‘Hindus’, which the twitter sphere was quick to point out.

This is the second year in a row President Trump has hosted a Diwali Celebration in the Oval Office. Here’s Diya TV’s coverage from the year before.

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