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Modi Hails A New ‘Divine India’ As He Inaugurates Controversial Hindu Temple Ahead Of Nationwide Elections

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Millions of people throughout India watched the opening of a massive Hindu temple on Monday, an event seen as the pinnacle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist objectives months before he seeks a rare third term in office.

The Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir, a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, will be inaugurated in northern India’s Ayodhya after more than 30 years of preparation and is expected to give Modi’s election campaign a significant boost.

The Ram Mandir is realizing Modi’s aim of creating a “new India,” which many believe will transform the country into a distinctly Hindu nation.

For Modi’s adversaries, the temple’s inauguration marks the completion of a decades-long drive to distance India from the secular roots on which the country was built after independence.

“Today, our Lord Ram has arrived. After generations of waiting, our Ram has finally arrived. “After centuries of unprecedented patience, countless sacrifices, renunciations, and penances, our Lord Ram has arrived,” Modi declared from the newly-constructed temple, which was adorned with colourful flowers, before an audience of 7,000 people, including movie stars, top cricket players, and tycoons.

“Ram is not a dispute, Ram is the solution,” he said.

Monday’s ceremony fulfils a long-standing promise Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government made to voters, which helped drive them to power in 2014.

In a deadly 1992 attack that sparked the nation’s Hindu nationalist movement, violent Hindu hardliners destroyed a 16th-century mosque on the site of a temple that Modi and his political supporters had long promised to erect.

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Modi Hails A New ‘Divine India’ As He Inaugurates Controversial Hindu Temple Ahead Of Nationwide Elections

The BJP and other right-wing parties pushed for the mosque’s demolition, which propelled the party into mainstream politics and helped it win a general election four years later.

In his speech, Modi made no direct mention of the Babri Masjid or the country’s Muslims, many of whom are deeply saddened by the events in Ayodhya. He did mention moving forward and “the beginning of a new time cycle.”

“From today, from this hallowed time, we must create the groundwork for the next 1,000 years. By moving forward with the temple construction, we are all taking a pledge to establish a national, capable, successful, beautiful, and divine India,” Modi stated.

On Monday, Modi presided over the Pran Pratishtha, or consecration ceremony, of an idol of Lord Ram, one of Hinduism’s most revered deities, within the temple’s sanctum sanctorum. The black stone statue depicted a young boy and was embellished with gold jewellery, gemstones, diamonds, and flowers.

Outside, military helicopters hovered over the temple and city, showering flower petals on the massive structure and hundreds of dignitaries below.

Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s right-wing parent organization, spoke at the occasion, stating that the temple “has become a symbol of a new India that will stand tall.”

“It has been said, and we know, that today in Ayodhya, along with Lord Ram, India’s self has returned,” he said.

Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is located, and one of the country’s most polarising political figures, described the Ram Mandir as India’s “national temple” and an “important ritual of cultural reawakening.”

Saffron flags soared high all day, and marigold flowers adorned building doors as tens of thousands of believers marched through the ancient town’s streets in joyous processions.

“For 500 years, Lord Ram was living in a hut,” devotee Acharya Mohanjodaro Bharadwaj told CNN, alluding to the time the Mughal-era mosque was constructed. “Today Modi made him sit inside a temple, the whole country is celebrating it like it’s Diwali.”

Celebrations were held nationwide, with officials pushing people to celebrate in their homes and temples, ensuring it became a national event.

Uttar Pradesh proclaimed Monday a public holiday, with schools and liquor businesses closed throughout the state.

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Modi Hails A New ‘Divine India’ As He Inaugurates Controversial Hindu Temple Ahead Of Nationwide Elections

Hundreds of Indian diaspora members gathered in New York on Sunday to celebrate the inauguration in front of a giant image of Lord Ram shown on a Times Square screen. Indian embassies around the world had watch parties.

While millions of Hindus hailed the unveiling of the long-awaited complex, which they regard as Ram’s birthplace, the country’s minority Muslim community saw it as a bitter reminder of religious tensions that they worry will worsen under Modi’s BJP rule.

The temple site was originally home to the Babri Masjid, a 16th-century mosque built during the Mughal Empire’s reign over India from 1526 to 1858.

However, the site has been debated for decades.

Many Hindus think the mosque was erected over the remnants of a Hindu temple that Babar, the first Mughal emperor in South Asia, purportedly demolished.

In 1992, right-wing organizations like the BJP and other groups supported Hindu hardliners who attacked the mosque, sparking widespread communal rioting that claimed over 2,000 lives nationwide.

The violence was among the most severe seen in India since the deadly battles that accompanied partition after independence in 1947.

In the years that followed, Hindu nationalists banded together to build the Ram Mandir on the site of the destroyed mosque, setting the groundwork for a decades-long emotional and political standoff.

In 2019, India’s Supreme Court permitted Hindus to build the temple on the contested site, effectively resolving the matter. It was viewed as a success by Modi and his supporters, but it was a setback for many Muslims, who saw the destruction of the Babri Masjid as a source of significant stress and historic loss.

Ayodhya is home to almost 3 million people, including approximately 500,000 Muslims, and some of them are concerned about attacks on the day of the temple’s opening.

Many people have expressed their support for one another on social media, with WhatsApp messages asking the community to avoid taking public transport for safety reasons.

Maulana Badshah Khan, 65, recently told CNN that he will remain home on Monday.

“The wounds left by the destruction of the Babri Mosque will never heal. Even if we are discouraged about expressing them,” Khan stated. “The temple holds the symbolic value of showing the Muslims their place in New India.”

‘Blurred lines’ between religion and government

Others have accused Modi of “weaponizing” the Hindu faith and exploiting the Ram Temple for political purposes.

“Objections include the fact that Modi is not a religious leader and thus unqualified to lead the ceremony, and that a Hindu temple cannot be consecrated until it is completed,” said a statement from Hindus for Human Rights, a US-based non-profit advocacy group.

Mr Modi “rushing through and fronting it himself is the latest attempt to weaponize Hinduism in the name of the BJP’s repressive nationalist ideology, ahead of national elections in May,” he said in the statement.

Modi came to office in 2014 with a promise to restructure the country’s economy and usher in a new era of growth, but he also actively promoted a Hindutva agenda, which holds that India should become a land for Hindus.

His promise to build the Ram Mandir contributed to the initial election win.

Modi Hails A New ‘Divine India’ As He Inaugurates Controversial Hindu Temple Ahead Of Nationwide Elections

Monday’s temple opening is expected to bolster Modi’s chances of winning a rare third term in a general election later this year, as he fulfilled his pledge to millions of voters.

In the lead-up to his inauguration, Modi fasted and prayed in an 11-day ceremony steeped in Hindu religious symbolism. As part of the festivities, Modi visited Lord Ram shrines and temples all around the country.”The Lord has made me an instrument to represent all the people of India during the consecration,” he stated in a taped message posted on his YouTube page.

On Sunday, Modi shared a video on social networking site X depicting himself walking into the sea and drowning at the Arulmigu Ramanathaswamy Temple in southern Tamil Nadu.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of “The Demolition and the Verdict,” a book about the 1992 mosque demolition, believes Modi’s decision to preside over Monday’s festivities demonstrates “Hindu hegemony” in India.

“Lines between politics and religions have gotten blurred,” he remarked of Modi’s participation in the ceremony in an officially secular country.

“They’ve also blurred the line between religion and the Indian state. You currently have an Indian prime minister who is partaking in a completely religious activity with the full support of the official machinery.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Putin Says Russia Has No Intention Of Putting Nuclear Weapons In Space, Denying US Claims

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow has no plans to put nuclear weapons in space, asserting that the country has just acquired space capabilities equivalent to those of the United States.

Putin’s warning comes after the White House confirmed last week that Russia had received a “troubling” anti-satellite weapon capability, albeit such a weapon is not currently operational. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby stated that it would violate the international Outer Space Treaty but declined to comment on whether the weapon is nuclear-capable.

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Putin Says Russia Has No Intention Of Putting Nuclear Weapons In Space, Denying US Claims

The deployment of “nuclear weapons or other types of weapons of mass destruction” in orbit as well as the stationing of “weapons in outer space in any other manner” are both prohibited by the convention, which more than 130 nations have signed, including Russia. The White House stated that it would seek to engage the Russians directly on the issues.

“Our position is quite clear and transparent: we have always been and remain categorically opposed to the deployment of nuclear weapons in space,” Putin said in a statement. “Just the opposite, we are urging everyone to adhere to all the agreements that exist in this sphere.”

During a meeting with his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, Putin stated that Russia has only achieved space capabilities that “other nations, including the United States, have.”

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Putin Says Russia Has No Intention Of Putting Nuclear Weapons In Space, Denying US Claims

“And they know it,” he added.

“We haven’t deployed any nuclear weapons in space or any elements of them to use against satellites or to create fields where satellites can’t work efficiently,” Shoigu said in an interview.

Shoigu claimed that the White House may have concocted assertions about a new Russian space capacity to pressure Congress to back Ukrainian aid and to convince Moscow to resume nuclear arms control talks, which Russia has postponed due to tensions with the U.S. over Ukraine.

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Putin Says Russia Has No Intention Of Putting Nuclear Weapons In Space, Denying US Claims

Putin did not rule out future discussions with the United States, but he restated his belief that Washington’s determination to Russia’s defeat in Ukraine makes them impossible at the moment.

“The U.S. and the West, for one thing, are calling for Russia’s strategic defeat, while, on the other hand, they would like to have a dialogue on strategic stability, pretending that those things aren’t connected,” Mr Putin said. “It won’t work.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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RUSSIA: The Kremlin Has Never Been Richer – Thanks To A US Strategic Partner

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Russia is entering its third year of war in Ukraine with an unprecedented amount of cash in government coffers, bolstered by a record $37 billion in crude oil sales to India last year, according to a new analysis, which concludes that some of the crude was refined in India and then exported to the United States as oil products worth more than $1 billion.

This cash flow, which ultimately benefits Moscow, stems from India raising its purchases of Russian crude by more than 13 times its pre-war levels, according to a study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) shared exclusively with CNN. According to the study, it amounts to US strategic partner New Delhi stepping in to replace crude purchases by Western purchasers, which have been decreased due to sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the fact that Russian crude sales to India are not subject to sanctions and are entirely legal, experts’ examination of shipping lanes indicates that this significant amount of shipments may involve the Kremlin’s so-called “shadow fleet” of crude tankers, which Moscow specifically created to try to conceal who it is trading with and how while also maximizing the Kremlin’s profits.

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RUSSIA: The Kremlin Has Never Been Richer – Thanks To A US Strategic Partner

CNN spotted a possible component of that intricate exchange off the Greek port of Gythio earlier this month. Two oil tankers, one large and the other smaller, sat next to each other for a ship-to-ship transfer, which entails transporting crude oil between vessels, often to conceal its origin and ultimate destination.

The two tankers have a colourful history. Both had departed from Russia weeks before. According to shipping tracking agency Pole Star Global, one is owned by an Indian corporation accused of sanctions violations, while the other was previously controlled by a person subject to separate US penalties.

“Transfers are (sometimes) done legally, but they’re also used as an illicit tactic to evade sanctions,” said Pole Star Global’s David Tannenbaum. “You’re adding multiple layers to the shell game of vessels as they try and confuse authorities as to where this oil is coming from and who’s buying it at the end of the day.”

Analysts claim dozens of identical transfers occur each week in Greece’s Laconian Gulf, a convenient stop on the way to the Suez Canal and Asian markets.

Earlier in February, the US Treasury imposed a new set of penalties on ships and organizations suspected of assisting in the movement of Russian oil in violation of US sanctions to impede the operation of Russia’s shadow fleet.

In late 2022, the United States led a coalition of countries that agreed to a “price cap,” promising not to buy Russian crude for more than $60 per barrel. These countries also prohibited their shipping and insurance companies, which are major players in global shipping, from assisting the movement of Russian crude beyond that price.

“The price cap was the real trigger for the creation of the shadow fleet,” stated Viktor Katona, head of crude oil analysis at trade research firm Kpler. “The longer the supply chains, the more difficult it is to disentangle ship-to-ship transfers, the more difficult it would get… to determine the real cost of a Russian barrel.”

Some oil trading between Russia and India is open and transparent. Windward, a maritime artificial intelligence company, analyzed global shipping movements for CNN and discovered 588 direct voyages by oil tankers from Russia to India last year.

However, some trade between the two countries is more complicated, as CNN discovered off the Greek coast. Pole Star Global investigated the same route last year and discovered over 200 journeys by Russian ships that made a transfer in the Laconian Gulf to another ship that continued to India.

Tannenbaum of Pole Star Global stated that the business “suspected” that the primary motivation for these transfers was to avoid sanctions because “almost all of these vessels” had ties to the United States or the European Union and would be subject to the price cap. “The bay is fenced. It is out of the way. And so they can carry out this activities in a pseudo-anonymous manner.”

Windward CEO Ami Daniel concurred, saying, “That is part of a Russian methodical, systemic effort to just make everything much more complicated.” He described the motive for Russia and oil dealers to avoid sanctions as “gigantic,” saying: “You really needed to have a reason to transfer 60-plus million barrels in the middle of the ocean and export them to India because it’s much easier not to do that – to sail directly.”

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RUSSIA: The Kremlin Has Never Been Richer – Thanks To A US Strategic Partner

The shadow fleet has allowed Russia to establish a parallel shipping network that can withstand Western sanctions’ shifting tactics and focus, with hundreds of tankers owned in secret and operating on convoluted routes. Windward estimates that the fleet increased to 1,800 vessels last year.

India’s crude purchases have had the overall effect of lessening the burden of oil sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s federal revenues soared to a record $320 billion in 2023 and are expected to increase even further. According to some estimates, around one-third of the money was spent on the Ukrainian war last year, and a larger part is expected to be spent on the fight in 2024.

The funds at the Kremlin’s disposal place Moscow in a better position to sustain a long war than Kyiv, battling to retain the urgently required flow of Western funding.

According to RAND economist Howard Shatz’s examination of public statistics from the Russian finance ministry, Russian government revenue and expenditure reached all-time highs in 2023. However, Moscow has yet to balance its books, indicating the war’s high cost and the impact of sanctions on oil earnings.

“Despite the jump in revenues, the federal budget deficit was at its third-highest… larger only in 2022 and 2020,” added Mr. Obama. “Tax on domestic production and imports are both high and effective, which means they are taxing their population to pay for this war,” he said.

India has defended its purchases from Russia as a way to keep world prices down by not competing with Western nations for Middle Eastern oil. Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, told CNBC this week that if the country starts importing more Middle Eastern oil, the price will be less than $75 or $76. “It will cost $150.

India’s intricate involvement in global oil trading is reflected in the fate of the oil products produced from Russian crude. Some crude is converted into oil products at refineries along India’s western coast before being transported to the United States and other nations that have imposed sanctions on Russian oil. Sanctions do not affect products refined outside Russia, which critics call a “refinery loophole.”

The CREA estimated that the US was the largest consumer of refined products from India derived from Russian crude last year, worth $1.3 billion between early December 2022, when the price cap was implemented, and the end of 2023. The projections are based on publicly available shipping and energy statistics.

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RUSSIA: The Kremlin Has Never Been Richer – Thanks To A US Strategic Partner

The value of these oil product exports increases dramatically when US partners imposing sanctions on Russia are added. The CREA anticipated that these countries would buy $9.1 billion in oil products derived from Russian crude oil in 2023, a 44% increase over the previous year.

Moscow has developed a way to profit from the refining and export process. One of the Indian refineries and ports that handle Russian crude is in Vadinar and is operated by Nayara Energy, a 49.1 %-%-owned subsidiary of Russian state oil major Rosneft. The CREA anticipated that the US will import $63 million in oil products processed in Vadinar in 2023, with Russian crude accounting for roughly half of the crude utilized in the plant. Everything is above board.

However, the organization’s assessment stated that exports from Vadinar “lead to significant tax revenues for the Kremlin in the form of taxing the exported Russian crude oil” and profits Rosneft gained from refining and reselling to Moscow’s Western opponents.

Nonetheless, researchers say the profits that may be earned from even the tiniest evasion of sanctions against Russia are enormous, given the large sums involved in selling a single oil tanker’s cargo. “You’re talking about something which is amazingly lucrative,” remarked Daniel at Windward. “Traders face significant temptation to engage in such behaviour.” They earn $10 to $40 million in four or five months. I don’t think there’s any other opportunity in the world to achieve it.”

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

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X, then known as Twitter, has finally paid out the employees it fired from its African offices more than a year ago, according to the agency that represents them.

Most had just been with the social media network in Ghana’s capital, Accra, for a few months before they were let go in November 2022.

They had threatened to sue X for failing to pay the redundancy money they said they were promised.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

The corporation has yet to respond.

X previously stated that it had paid ex-employees in full.

Elon Musk, who took over the corporation in 2022, launched a large global workforce layoff, dismissing almost 6,000 individuals. He said he was losing more than $4 million (£3.5 million) daily.

The African contingent, which numbered fewer than 20, had only recently relocated to X’s new office in

Accra after eight months of working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

Agency Seven, the organisation providing legal representation to the workforce, stated that it had successfully obtained a redundancy settlement and repatriation fees for foreign employees but did not indicate the payout size.

“They are very pleased to finally be able to get their due, put this behind them, and look forward to the future,” Agency Seven Seven spokesperson Carla Olympio told the BBC.

Last year, terminated employees told the BBC that their treatment at X had impacted their mental health and money.

“It’s difficult when it’s the world’s richest man owing you money and closure,” one of them stated.

They claimed they were initially assured that they would be paid to work for one more month while their contracts were being terminated. However, they were instantly shut out of their emails, and no more wage payments were issued.

Since then, the crew has reported a difficult battle for compensation.

Some had migrated from adjacent nations, such as Nigeria. Their contract was terminated, leaving them and their families stuck in Ghana.

In a rare interview with the BBC last April, Mr Musk revealed that the social media powerhouse had 1,500 staff, down from just under 8,000 when he bought the company.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

When the news of Mr Musk’s extreme workforce reduction broke, he tweeted that laid-off employees received three months’ severance compensation.

However, staff members in the Africa office claim they still need this.

According to Agency Seven Seven, X only started negotiating with the terminated African staff after the BBC publicised the news.

Last year, ex-employees filed a complaint in a California court accusing X of failing to pay at least $500 million in promised severance benefits.

SOURCE – (BBC)

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