India Insight

India negotiating to bring back stolen antiques: ASI

India plans to step up its efforts to bring back Indian artefacts from other countries after the recent repatriation of a 10th century “Yogini” stone sculpture from Paris.

Illegal trade in paintings, sculptures and other artefacts is one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises, estimated at $6 billion a year, according to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based advocacy group. India is one of the biggest targets for smugglers, who ship stolen antiques and other culturally important artefacts abroad to sell to art dealers and museums.

India Insight spoke to R.S. Fonia, Director (Antiquity) at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), about the black market for Indian artefacts and what the ASI is doing to bring Indian antiques back home. This interview has been lightly edited.

Are you seeing an increase or decrease in smuggling of Indian artefacts?

Awareness has increased about the antiquities, so it has decreased. Certainly there is decline of smuggling.

How big is the market for smuggled Indian artefacts?

We don’t have figures.

What initiatives are you taking to bring back Indian artefacts from abroad?

We are trying hard. That’s why we have retrieved 16-17 artefacts from abroad. We are directly interacting with all concerned agencies, but it takes some time. There are so many processes involved.

Markets this week: Sensex loses 2.7 percent, SBI falls 7.5 percent

Hurt by profit-taking in blue chips, the BSE Sensex posted its worst weekly decline since August as it lost 2.7 percent in a holiday-truncated week.

On Thursday, shares were hurt after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said it will review the rating of Asia’s third-largest economy after the new government lays out its policy agenda next year. The agency’s outlook on rating remains negative.

However, Goldman upgraded its view on India to “marketweight”, with a Nifty target of 6,900 points. The investment bank noted optimism over political change is trumping economic concerns.

Movie review: Satya 2

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

To expect Ram Gopal Varma’s “Satya 2” to be even half as good as the original is unfair, given the filmmaker’s recent work, but even Varma’s staunchest supporters would find it difficult to defend his latest atrocity of a film.

In “Satya 2”, Varma intersperses gruesome violence with titillating song sequences, ludicrous dialogue and a surreal story. He does it with the brazenness of a man who either is confident of his mastery of the craft, or one who has stopped caring about it.

Either way, the result is bad. Really bad. It might be “tops-them-all” bad.

Anand, and India, stand in Carlsen’s path to chess glory

Magnus Carlsen is the world’s number one chess player but that counts for little in India, where he’ll have to conquer local favourite Viswanathan Anand to become the first world chess champion from the West in nearly 40 years.

Anand, the undisputed world champion since 2007, has slumped to eighth in the rankings but has the experience of five world titles to thwart his 22-year-old Norwegian rival. If Carlsen wins the title this month, he’ll be the first champion from the West since American Bobby Fischer’s reign ended in 1975.

Media interest in the 12-game chess series billed as the “War of the Wizards” has been unprecedented, despite reams of newsprint and TV coverage devoted to Sachin Tendulkar’s swansong series happening concurrently in cricket-crazy India.

Indian women get a new look, with some help from Pernia Qureshi

In a country where styling has not always been recognized as a worthy craft, Pernia Qureshi has put her profession at the forefront of Bollywood fashion.

Qureshi styled actress Sonam Kapoor for 2010′s “Aisha“, ushering in trendy outfits paired with designer handbags that overshadowed the film, a modern-day take on Jane Austen’s “Emma“.

Styling suddenly became serious business and the 28-year-old Qureshi found herself a pioneer in India. The Indian film industry woke up to the trend, shedding its garish costumes, and hiring stylists to mould a more glamorous image for Bollywood’s A-listers. Other celebrities followed suit.

Interview: Narendra Modi has marginalized his own party – Jairam Ramesh

By Frank Jack Daniel, Jo Winterbottom and Mayank Bhardwaj

Jairam Ramesh, the rural development minister in the Congress-led government, told Reuters on Tuesday that Narendra Modi’s career reminded him of the rise of the Third Reich, the strongest comments yet by a minister of his rank on the Bharatiya Janata Party leader.

(Click here for main story)

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

Where do you feel public sentiment is at the moment?

If you look at the social media, the sentiment is in one way. If you travel like the way I do to remote parts of the country where social media footprint is very very inconspicuous, the sentiment is some other way. We are going through the noise phase of the election campaign … Sentiments change, by the way; there is no such thing like a permanent sentiment.

The Modi campaign has got a lot of momentum and the perception is that the Congress campaign lacks that momentum.

Equity mutual funds record best monthly performance since Jan 2012

India’s diversified equity funds posted their best monthly performance since Jan 2012 as the benchmark Sensex scaled record highs in October, with bets on sectors such as banking and capital goods boosting mutual fund returns.

Such schemes, which form the largest category of equity funds in India by number and assets, rose 9.2 percent on average, mirroring returns on the 30-share BSE Sensex, data from fund tracker Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company, showed.

The Sensex hit an all-time closing high in October — and went on to touch a life high on Nov. 1 ahead of the Diwali weekend — bolstered by foreign inflows of around $3.5 billion after the U.S. Fed decided to delay stimulus tapering.

India’s mission to Mars at a glance

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, the country’s first interplanetary foray, is billed as a pathfinder to test technologies to fly to orbit and communicate from the Red Planet. It follows India’s successful 2008-2009 Chandrayaan-1 moon probe, which discovered water molecules in the lunar soil.

Here are some facts about the project:

    One of the objectives is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission. The mission aims to explore Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and search for methane in the Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments. Payloads on the satellite include instruments for studying the atmosphere, particle environment and surface imaging. These include the Lyman Alpha Photometer, a methane sensor, a composition analyser, a camera and an imaging spectrometer. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will launch the 1,337 kg Mars Orbiter satellite as part of its 25th mission. The satellite is scheduled to reach the Mars orbit in September 2014 and is designed to circle the Red Planet in an elliptical orbit of 366 km X 80,000 km. The total cost of the Mars mission is $73 million.

Source: Reuters, Indian Space Research Organisation. More info here

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shashank on Twitter @shashankchouhan and Tony@tonytharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

Fandry puts a harsh spotlight on India’s caste system

Nagraj Manjule grew up as a Dalit, an untouchable, scorned by a caste system that he says never lets you forget how low you are. The short-film director channeled the shame and the ridicule of his childhood into his first feature film, “Fandry” (“Pig”) which won the Jury Grand Prize at the Mumbai Film Festival last month.

The movie is about a Dalit schoolboy named Jabya (Somnath Awghade) who  lives on the outskirts of a village and struggles against the caste system by daring to dream, and eventually rebelling against the perpetrators of that system.

He harbours a crush on a fair-skinned, Brahmin class-mate, dreams of buying fancy new blue jeans, and uses talcum powder to try to make his dusky face fair. Through scenes with his father, his best friend and the village maverick who becomes friends with Jabya, Manjule tells the audience that little has changed. The powerful climax gives the audience a glimpse into Jabya’s insecurities, his reluctance to accept his identity, before he finally snaps, retaliating against those ridiculing him and his family.

Delhi’s ‘Procession of the Florists’ marches toward obscurity

Every fall, people gather in Delhi’s Mehrauli area for the “Procession of the Florists,” a festival to commemorate the return from exile of a 19th-century prince who crossed India’s British colonial rulers.

The “Phool Walon ki Sair,” as it is called in Hindi and Urdu, features the offering of a “chaadar” or a “sheet” of flowers at a Muslim shrine and floral “pankhas” or fans at a nearby Hindu temple but after nearly 200 years, its popularity is fading.

The annual procession began in the early 19th century when Queen Mumtaz Mahal and her subjects walked to the shrine of Khwaja Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtyar Kaaki to fulfil a vow that she made. During the reign of her husband, Mughal ruler Akbar Shah II, their son Mirza Jahangir taunted the British Resident Archibald Seton. The young prince also took a shot at Seton at the Red Fort, but missed his target and killed his orderly instead.

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