Mumbai: The only openly gay prince in India is throwing open his palace doors to lesbians, gays, transgender and other Indians shunned for their sexuality.
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, heir apparent to the throne of Rajpipla in Gujarat, said it was particularly hard to come out in small-town India, where traditional values hold sway and heterosexual relations are the norm.
“People still face a lot of pressure from their families when they come out, being forced to marry, or thrown out of their homes. They often have nowhere to go, no means to support themselves,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
So the prince, 52, is building a centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) on the grounds of his ancestral palace.
“I am not going to have children, so I thought, why not use this space for a good purpose?” Gohil said, adding that he will offer rooms, a medical facility and training in English and vocational skills to help people find jobs.
Gohil came out to his family more than a decade ago, prompting his mother to take out a newspaper advertisement disowning him.
After coming out, Gohil set up the Lakshya Trust, a charity for LGBT people in his conservative home state, and became a champion for gay rights. He has made numerous international appearances, including The Oprah Winfrey Show.
He is a vocal critic of the colonial-era law that criminalises consensual sexual relations between same sex adults. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court said it would reconsider its 2013 decision to uphold the law.
“Lifting the law will encourage more people to come out and live their lives freely. But it may also mean more people in need of support,” Gohil said.
Gohil said he is renovating and extending his palace, built in 1927, on the 15-acre site, installing solar panels for power, and reserving some land for organic farming.
An online crowdfunding campaign and donations are financing the centre, which will be managed by his charity, he said.
Gohil’s high profile has helped the LGBT community in India enormously, said Harish Iyer, a gay rights activist who hosts a radio show dedicated to LGBT issues.
“For him to be one of us, the stakes are even higher, so providing this space is a great gesture,” he said.
“We are lucky to have many LGBT-friendly spaces in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. But in smaller towns, there are not so many places, and that is where they are most needed.”
Forces capable of giving befitting reply to those who cast evil eye on us: Rajnath
New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said India has never been the aggressor but its armed forces are capable of giving a befitting reply to those who cast an evil eye on it.
The Navy has maintained vigilance to ensure that 26/11 is not repeated, Singh added while addressing the media at the Naval Commanders Conference. India, he said, has never been “offensive”.
“It’s character is such that it has not attacked any country nor conquered even an inch of land belonging to another nation. But the armed forces have the capability and strength to give a befitting reply to anyone who casts an evil eye on us,” the minister said.
He was responding to a query on Pakistan’s Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed reported statement that his country would retaliate against India with a nuclear attack for targeting Pakistani military posts in Jammu and Kashmir’s Tangadhar sector.
According to Indian Army officials, there was unprovoked firing by Pakistan in the sector on the intervening night of Saturday-Sunday. On Sunday, the Indian Army retaliated by launching heavy artillery attacks, targeting at least four terror camps and several Pakistani military positions opposite the Tangadhar sector along the Line of Control, officials said. Discussing the Indian
Navy, the defence minister said he was confident that India’s seas are safe in the hands of the force.
“Our Indian Navy’s resolve is that 26/11 will not be repeated under any circumstances and it has ensured tight vigil,” he said, referring to the November 2008 terror siege of Mumbai. The Indian
Navy is marching towards indigenisation and its ships have a high percentage of indigenous equipment, Singh added. The minister also said all three services have placed emphasis on the need to reduce defence imports.
“All the three forces are also working to pick up niche technologies to meet the challenges,” he said. The three-day second edition of Naval Commanders’ Conference began here on Tuesday. The conference is the apex level biannual event for interaction between Naval commanders for the deliberation and formulation of important policy decisions.
Next war with indigenised weapons: Army chief
New Delhi, Oct 15: Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Tuesday said the Defence Research and Development Organisation has made strides in ensuring that requirement of the country’s defence services are met through home-grown solutions, adding that the next war will be fought and won through indigenised weapons systems and equipment.
Speaking at the 41st DRDO Directors Conference, Rawat said: “The DRDO has made strides in ensuring that requirements of the services are met through home-grown solutions. We are confident that we will fight and win the next war through indigenised weapons systems and equipment.”
With a network of 52 laboratories, the government agency DRDO is charged with the military’s research and development covering various fields like aeronautics, land combat engineering, armaments, electronics, missiles, and naval systems.
The Army chief said that the Defence industry of India is a budding industry and the time has now come to look at the development of systems for future warfare and start preparing for “non-contact warfare.”
Rawat asserted that along with artificial intelligence, the future lies in the development of cyber, space technology, laser, electronic warfare and robotics.
“We are looking at systems for future warfare. We have to start looking at development of cyber, space, laser, electronic and robotic technologies and artificial intelligence,” he said.
The Army chief said that if the timeline between the design development and production of any weapon system of equipment is to be reduced then it would be better to embed the service officers along with Research and Development.
Calling for joint research by Army officials and DRDO, he said: “In a joint project, the success and failures will become a joint responsibility and we will not start pointing fingers at each other.”
On the occasion, Rawat recalled APJ Abdul Kalam on his birth anniversary stating that the late President had set benchmarks and standards for the Defence Research and Development (R and D) community, which is a challenge for scientists who are now emerging.
“I am quite sure the scientists will live up to those expectations,” he said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval were also present at the event. (IANS)
Major shift in govt’s way of handling ‘terrorism’: IAF chief on Balakot
New Delhi: The strategic relevance of Balakot air strikes is the resolve of the political leadership to punish the perpetrators of terrorism, Air Chief RKS Bhadauria said on Tuesday.
In his Air Force Day message, the Air Chief said, “The strategic relevance of this (Balakot air strikes) is the resolve of the political leadership to punish the perpetrators of terrorism. There is a major shift in the government’s way of handling militant attacks.”
Stressing that the present security environment in the neighbourhood is a case of serious concern, the Air Chief said Pulwama attack is a stark reminder of the persistent threat to defence installations.
Earlier, the Chiefs of three services paid floral tributes at the national war memorial on the occasion of 87th Air Force Day.
“On February 26 this year, the IAF successfully struck camps located at Balakot. On the next day, the IAF successfully thwarted Pakistan Air Force’s attempts to attack our military establishments. In the aerial engagement that followed we shot down a PAF F-16 fighter aircraft and lost a MiG-21,” the IAF chief said in his remarks during Air Force Day press conference on October 4.