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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.

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Big night for South Asians, Riz Ahmed and Aziz Ansari take home Emmy’s

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British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed claimed a 2017 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series for portraying Nasir “Naz” Khan in The Night Of – a Pakistani college student who becomes caught up in a homicide investigation.

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed claimed a 2017 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series.

Portraying Nasir “Naz” Khan in The Night Of, Ahmed plays a Pakistani college student who becomes caught up in a homicide investigation. His character also spends time in prison.

“I want to say it is always strange reaping the rewards of a story based on real-world suffering,” Ahmed said when accepting the honor. “But if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our societies, xenophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that is something.”

Ahmed also thanked the South Asian Youth Action for “helping me prepare for this and The Innocence Project.”

“I don’t know if any one person’s win of an award or one person snagging one role or one person doing very well changes something that’s a systemic issue of inclusion,” Ahmed later said in a press statement. “I think that’s something that happens slowly over time.”

Prior to Ahmed winning his Emmy, only one other person of Asian descent had won an Emmy. Archie Panjabi won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2010 for her portrayal of Kalinda Sharma on CBS’s The Good Wife.

The 34-year-old actor, also known as Riz MC has starred in an array of films. He was first known for his roles in independent films The Road to Guantanamo (2006), Shifty (2008), Four Lions (2010), Trishna (2011) and Ill Manors (2012). His breakthrough role was in Nightcrawler in 2014 alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. His recent film credits include Una, Jason Bourne and the first Star Wars Anthology film, Rogue One.

Known for politically-motivated rap lyrics, he also has fostered success as a musician. He has been active in charitable work, raising funds for Syrian refugee children. His film accolades and advocacy and charity work earned him a spot on the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world in 2017.

Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe won the Emmy for ‘Outstanding writing for Comedy Series’ for the episode ‘Thanksgiving’ in the second season of Netflix’s ‘Master of None’. As the duo walked up to the stage to accept the Emmy, the crowd started to clap and slowly rose to a full blown standing ovation. Waithe gave the acceptance speech, thanking Aziz for “making me co-write” and thanked her “LGBTQIA family” adding “I see each and every one of you”

Ansari and Waithe beat Alec Berg of ‘Silicon Valley‘, Donald Glover & Stephen Glover of ‘Atlanta’ and Billy Kimball and David Mandell of ‘Veep’

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Grammy nominated Indian American singer Raja Kumari signs with Sony Music

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Grammy nominated singer and songwriter Raja Kumari has inked a recording and exclusive representation management agreement with entertainment giant with Sony Music.

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Raja Kumari inks recording and exclusive representation agreement with Sony Music

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Grammy nominated singer and songwriter Raja Kumari has inked a recording and exclusive representation management agreement with entertainment giant with Sony Music.

Known for being a talented lyricist, rapper and recording artist, her music combines classical Indian roots with hip hop and rap, creating a unique style of music. The 31-year-old has composed music for Iggy Azalea, Gwen Stefani and Fifth Harmony. She has also worked with Timbaland, AR Rahman, Tricky Stewart and Fall Out Boy.

“It is really exciting and inspiring to be in India right now. I have always wanted my music to be the bridge between the East and West. I want to push the south Asian profile forward worldwide and I think working with an amazing team of Sony Music will help me achieve this,” Kumari said in a statement from Sony Music. “I believe this is just the beginning of my journey in the motherland and I know that together we will create some amazing music for the people worldwide. I’m here to make history!”
!”

“Her global music sensibilities and song-writing will resonate equally with the Indian as well as the international audience,” said Rohan Jha, Pop Lead at Sony Music India. “We feel we have an exceptional artist on board, and we are sure she will enthrall music fans across the globe.”

Her first song, penned for Iggy Azalea, “Change your Life,” was nominated for a Grammy Award. She also wrote six songs for Gwen Stefani’s “This Is What the Truth Feels Like,” album, which debuted number one on the Billboard Top 200 chart in 2016.

Her debut single ‘Mute’ is fostering rave reviews. Sony is set to release her next single soon, under their renowned label.

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Three Indian-American Writers named among 2017 Henry Award Winners

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Three Indian-American authors have been selected to the 2017 class of Henry Award winners.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Indian-American authors Shruti Swami, Amit Majumdar and Jai Chakrabarti were named among the 2017 class of the Henry Awards, distributed annually to commemorate short stories of the highest merit.

First presented in 1918 and funded by the Society of Arts and Sciences, the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories is an annual collection of the year’s twenty best stories published in U.S. and Canadian magazines.

Swami, who garnered the honor for the second time in as many years, was selected for her works on Night GardenThe San-Francisco resident was Vassar College’s 50th W.K Rose Fellow in 2012, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, Hedgebrook, and Willapa Bay AiR. She is a Kundiman Fiction Fellow and a 2017-2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose University.

Amit Majumdar, who is a nuclear biologist by trade, is also Ohio’s first poet laureate. He was selected for his short-story, Secret Lives of the Detainees, published by Kenyon Review. Majumdar grew up in Cleveland and currently works as a diagnostic radiologist specializing in nuclear medicine practicing full-time in Columbus, where he lives with his family.

Majumdar’s poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, Image, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, National Poetry Review, The New England Review, Smartish Pace, and The New Yorker.

Chakrabarti won the award for his work, A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness, published by A Public Space. He is a 2015 “A Public Space Emerging Writer’s Fellow” and a graduate of the Brooklyn College MFA program. His previous works have appeared or is forthcoming in Barrow Street, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Coffin Factory, Union Station, and A Public Space. Chakrabarti lives in Brooklyn with his family.

Tahmima Anam, a celebrated writer from Bangladesh who also won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ prize, was also named to the list of 2017 winners.

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