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No country for women

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India is regarded as world’s biggest democracy. But more than half of its population, women, have been described as the most vulnerable lot, prone to sexual and physical attacks. In a recent survey, global experts put India as the most dangerous country for women, worse than war-torn Afghanistan and Syria which occupy second and third place. The Thomson Reuters Foundation, which conducted the survey, released its results early this week of a survey of 550 experts on women’s issues, finding India to be the most dangerous nation for sexual violence against women, as well as human trafficking for domestic work, forced labor, forced marriage and sexual slavery, among other reasons. It was also described as the most dangerous country in the world for cultural traditions that impact women, the survey found, citing acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage and physical abuse. India was the fourth most dangerous country for women in the same survey in 2011. The release of the report comes amid mounting public outrage after a series of high-profile rape cases, including rape and murder of a 8-year old girl in Kathua and rape of 16-year old girl in Unnao Utter Pradesh, have forced the issue onto the national agenda. The worst of it is that in, both, Kathua and Onnao cases people associated with the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) were involved directly as also indirectly. In Unnao, the minor girl was not only raped by a BJP legislator but her father was done to death in police station for complaining about the rape of her daughter. In Kathua, then BJP minister besides several local and state level leaders of the BJP rallied around the people accused in rape and murder of the 8-year nomadic girl. Though the case if now being heard by a court in Pathankote, the BJP leaders are still running a public campaign in favor of the accused. India has long grappled with the issue violence against women. After public outrage and angry demonstration across the country against the rape of a young doctor in Delhi in 2012, government of India introduced some stringent punishment sections to the existing rape law. But it, in no way, helped reduce crimes against women. In a quite reverse way, there was rather increase in sexual crimes against women. But despite the introduction of stricter laws, around 100 sexual assaults are reported to police in the country every day, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, with nearly 39,000 alleged attacks reported in 2016, an increase of 12% from the previous year. It is a serious indictment of a country which boosts of a great humanitarian and cultural history. It should be a matter of concern for the society and country as a whole that India’s glorious past is being replaced by a disgraceful era with open support from the people in power. The rape and murder of Kathua gilr could be termed as a poisonous cocktail of religious bigotry and communal prejudice. The Muslim girl was kept captive in a Hindu temple, fed sedatives and raped repeatedly and latter murdered and dumped in a forest. It was a warning to nomad Muslims to leave the area. Eight Hindu men have been charged with the Kashmir gang-rape and murder. In the southern state of Kerala, a bank manager declared on his Facebook wall that it was “good” that the nomad girl was killed, because “she would have come as a [human] bomb against India tomorrow”. His employers sacked him. It should surprise one that the crimes against women are supported at highest government level. A rape—accused in Rajasthan, Nihal Chand, was accorded a ministerial berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2014. It doesn’t matter if India is really the most dangerous country for women. It does matter that too many women in India live in a constant state of fear. And our government’s silence tells us that we’re on our own.


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Editorial

Afraid Of Heights? VR Therapy May Help You!

The Kashmir Monitor

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If you are acrophobic or are scared of heights, then taking automated virtual reality (VR) based psychological therapy may help reduce the phobia, say researchers.
According to the study, published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, the participants took part in activities during the VR session that challenged their fears and helped them learn that they were safer than they thought.
“Immersive VR therapies that do not need a therapist have the potential to dramatically increase access to psychological interventions,” said lead author Daniel Freeman from Britain’s University of Oxford.
“As seen in our clinical trial, VR treatments have the potential to be effective, faster, and more appealing for many patients than traditional face-to-face therapies.
With our unique automation of therapy using VR, there is the opportunity to provide really high quality treatment to many more people at an affordable cost,” Freeman added.
For the study, 100 people with clinically diagnosed fear of heights, who were not receiving psychological therapy, were divided into two groups and were given either the new automated VR treatment or usual care, which was typically no treatment.
Participants were given six VR treatment sessions roughly for 30 minutes each for two weeks where they wore a VR headset.
Throughout various activities, starting with simpler tasks, such as watching a safety barrier drop gradually, leading to harder tasks like walking on a platform over a large drop, the virtual coach offered encouragement, and afterwards explained what the participants had learned from their activities and asked whether they felt safer than before.
The virtual coach also encouraged participants to try real heights between sessions.
At the end of the treatment and at follow-up, participants from the VR group reported that their fears have reduced as opposed to the control group who rated their fear of heights as remaining similar.

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Editorial

Unending traffic woes

The Kashmir Monitor

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It has become routine with the officials related to traffic department to come up with meetings and announcements of new measures to regulate traffic in Srinagar. But nothing concrete is done to streamline the traffic management and road safety. It can be said with great authority there is complete mess on roads all across Kashmir, and the authorities responsible for maintain roads and managing traffic are doing mere lip service. Though the traffic problem is an old case but it needs to be corrected at some point in time. Jam and mess on Srinagar roads is a daily affair.

The main city intersections remain jammed all through the day making travelling difficult even for pedestrians. The distance which normally could be covered in minutes takes hours to travel over. Travelling on Srinagar roads, indeed, has become longer and grueling affair. The huge traffic jams at Pantha Chowk, Hyderpora, Ram Bagh, Exhibition Chowk, Batamaloo, Qamarwari, Budshah Chowk, Hari Singh High Street and Dalgate have reached unparalleled proportions.

The traffic congestion at Qamarwari clogs the city from the west end. The north end gets blocked with huge jams at Soura and city interiors like Khanyar and Rainawari.

There are instances when a commuter had to wait for hours to get cleared of the traffic jam. The mess right from Iqbal Park to exhibition Chowk is so grueling and time consuming that many a commuters, who have their work places in and around Lal Chowk, have made it a habit to leave their homes in early morning hours. The mess on prestigious Boulevard Road, which is the face of Kashmir tourism, is even more agonizing. The evening time, when there is presence of tourists in the area, gives a horrible look. The installation of traffic signals has not helped to the level one had expected in regulation of traffic at Exhibition ground. The commuters could not be absolved completely for the mess. The moment the light turns red, cars zip past in a flash. The zebra-crossings are blocked by cars, forcing pedestrians to make their way through the vehicles. Shameless drivers on the wrong side, nosing through illegal cuts, taking U-turns before roundabouts, driving with mobile phone fixed to their ears – all are direct causes of the mess on the roads. Undoubtedly, much needs to be done for regulation of traffic in the city to make life easy for the people. The development of road infrastructure is the primary need but it cannot be done overnight. It would take time. The mess on the city roads is a strong reminder to the government to build road infrastructure on priority bases. Till then people should not be left to suffer. There is a strong need for regulation of traffic to minimize the peoples’ problems. The strength of traffic police should be increased in proportion with the increase in rush on roads. The policemen have to become more responsible. There are large scale complaints that policemen allow illegal parking of vehicle against payoffs. They need to change and be harsher with the people who break traffic laws and believe that rules are not for them.

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Editorial

Homage to the Martyr

The Kashmir Monitor

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To understand the story of Karbala, one must take into cognizance that Islam is a religion, nay, away of life, revealed by Divine Grace, inviting all mankind to the Blessings of Allah, the Supreme.Islam, consisting of a complex structure of thought, practices, statutes, and transcendence,spread among diverse peoples, from the West Coast of Africa to the islands of the Pacific, withina matter of a few years, an unheard of phenomenon, as a ‘miracle’ from the Divine. It changedthe perceptions of right and wrong, and the foundation of societal interactions of precedinggenerations. Islam was challenging man to reach beyond himself to reach stages of the highestprosperity, spirituality and inspiration. This could not be accepted easily by the existing power structure. Ingrained base emotions especially of jealousy and vengeance raised its evil head inthe form of rebellion against the Prophet’s legacy. As long as members of the family of theProphet remained, they was always a threat that Hussain (AS)’s supporters would come to power and, therefore Hussain (AS) had to be eliminated forever from the Caliphate. Hussain was alarmed when Yazid wasdesignated his successor. Hussain (AS) was resolute against the imposition of dynastic rule inIslam and decided to oppose Yazid by giving support to his own followers, no matter what thecost. Hussain (AS) had previously been offered largesse and many gratuities to stay away fromthe struggle which he had stridently refused. Hussain (AS) wanted to save Islam from corruption,and if necessary, by shedding his own blood, and that of his children. Hussain (AS) was invited to go to Kufa from Medina to become their leader. Having reached theoutskirts of Kufa, beside the Euphrates river, with a group of around 175, he and his immediatelyfamily and the other direct descendants of Prophet Muhammad (SWS), and their followers, weredenied water for 3 days in the desert and ultimately brutally killed by an army numbering a fewthousand.
The story of the Battle of Karbala is actually the age old story of the struggle in man between hishigher virtues that reach out to heaven, and his vices that pull him down into the abyss of ignominy, despair and defeat. Hussain (AS) showed that one must fight and strive to establishtruth and justice in the land, and for it, must be prepared to offer the supreme sacrifice. Throughhis legacy he established firmly the basic foundation of the religion – readiness to sacrificeeverything for achieving closeness of Allah, which is best for the hereafter, and is the goal of thedevout.To understand the decrepit state of Islamic society today one must examine it through the lens of Karbala. Power hungry men devoid of the love of Allah, the Prophet and the Ahle Bayet, unableto grasp advances in other branches of knowledge of the last 5 centuries, and fostered by acrude zeal to acquire the ‘former glory of Islam’, not for its virtues of achieving closeness to Ahle Bayet for achieving worldly power, are terrorizing not only their own communities but the peace of the entire world. Misleading the Ummah in the garb of devoutness, they borrow from history for the sake of glory. They have no appreciation of the proper qualities of leadership as personifiedby the Ahle Bayet, the Close Companions, and the learned ones of society, no reflective study of the literature available on Islam, and above all, no willingness to offer self sacrifice either for theUmmah or for Allah.
Today, as never before, we need to know the ideals of Hussain (AS), and remember thesorrowful days of Karbala not for worldly gain but to attain the love of Almighty Allah. Every timethat we remember the gallant Shahadat of Hussain (AS), we celebrate Hussain (AS)’s victoryover the depravity of Yazid and Islam becomes victorious. Each time we shed a tear for Hussain(AS), the doors of Allah’s Blessings open once again on the tortured and wavering souls of modern day Muslims. To keep the spirit of Karbala and Islam alive in our hearts, we must learnto observe the Muharram in a manner that befits the great traditions of Islam as laid down by the Prophet.

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