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EDITORIALS

It is shocking
Don’t use innocents as pawns
T
HE whole of India is worried over the fate of the three Indian truck drivers held hostage by a militant nationalist group in Iraq. The videotape released by the captors showing a terrorised and sweating Antaryami with an automatic gun pointed at his head by a masked man has shocked the nation.

The Soren show
Judiciary does not buy his tale
M
R Shibu Soren's antics over the past fortnight following the issuance of a non-bailable warrant of arrest in a three-decade-old murder case were neither amusing nor acceptable. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader should do some honest introspection about what he achieved by evading arrest, instead of promptly resigning from the Union Cabinet.






EARLIER ARTICLES

Lining up for PM
July 30, 2004
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July 29, 2004

Not by boycott
July 28, 2004

Bank burst
July 27, 2004

Punjab without power
July 26, 2004

Left provides life support to Manmohan govt, says Raja
July 25, 2004

Troubled waters
July 24, 2004

Eyeball to eyeball
July 23, 2004
Show him the door
July 22, 2004
Waiting for rain
July 21, 2004
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Nariman’s Bill
Ensuring speedy justice
E
MINENT jurist and Member of Parliament (Nominated) Fali S. Nariman’s introduction of the Judicial Statistics Bill, 2004, in the Rajya Sabha assumes special significance in the context of the huge backlog of cases and the courts’ inability to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.
ARTICLE

Zero-error voters’ list
Arduous task for the Election Commission
by V. Eshwar Anand
A
N accurate and updated voters’ list has long eluded the world’s largest democracy. The problem has only worsened after every Assembly and Lok Sabha election. “It was a sleepless night after I heard about faulty rolls in the Lok Sabha elections,” confessed Chief Election Commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy.

MIDDLE

Mind your K’s and Q’s
by Saroop Krishen
T
HE British rulers never missed an opportunity to proclaim that Hindi is the language of the Hindus and Urdu of the Muslims. In fact that was a major plank in their policy of divide and rule and they liked to make the maximum use of it.

OPED

DATELINE LONDON
Bush, Blair: without friends in the world
No US regime has evoked such condemnation
by K.N. Malik
T
HERE is no doubt that the three recent reports, one investigating the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the other two — the US congressional report and the UK’s Butler report — were given fudged intelligence. These reports, as indeed most officially initiated investigations do, tried not to rock the bottom. The congressional report was released in “full”, but the US administration had censured its substantive portions.

Human traffickers target children
by Aditi Tandon
A
LTHOUGH trafficking of women and children is not new, the number of trafficked persons from South Asia, estimated at 200,000 annually, is alarming. No wonder experts at the recently concluded 15th International AIDS Conference at Bangkok reiterated their commitment to address the linkage between trafficking and AIDS by developing strategies to encourage safe mobility and informed migration.


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It is shocking
Don’t use innocents as pawns

THE whole of India is worried over the fate of the three Indian truck drivers held hostage by a militant nationalist group in Iraq. The videotape released by the captors showing a terrorised and sweating Antaryami with an automatic gun pointed at his head by a masked man has shocked the nation. The people’s worries have been heightened by the killing of two Pakistani workers held hostage by another group. The picture of a grieving sister of one of the Pakistani victims that The Tribune carried on Friday poignantly brought out the agony caused by the mindless execution. The killing was to protest against Pakistan’s alleged decision to send its troops to Iraq to aid the occupying American forces. Whatever be the reason, such killings are unacceptable to civilised society.

In the case of the Indians, there is absolutely no justification to keep them in illegal custody. India has time and again clarified that neither has it sent its forces to Iraq nor has it ever approved of the American action. In no way is India involved in Iraq, though it has been using its diplomatic and moral authority to persuade the Americans to restore sovereignty to Iraq and withdraw forthwith from the country. It has also advised its citizens not to travel to Iraq except on unavoidable diplomatic assignments. The three Indian drivers, who are among seven persons held in captivity, are employed by a Kuwaiti firm over which India has no control. On its part, India has assured that if the three are released, they will never return to Iraq. All this justifies the Indian demand that they be released immediately and unconditionally.

The Iraqi militants, who tasted blood when they could force the Philippines to withdraw its forces by threatening to kill a Filipino hostage, have not served their cause by this defeatist strategy. It is wholly unacceptable to pick up innocent people and hold them to ransom. There is no religious, diplomatic or moral sanction for such despicable behaviour. The Iraqis are hardy fighters and they can be expected to fight “on the beaches, in the fields and in the streets” for defending their nation. Picking up innocent truck drivers and holding them to ransom does not show the militants in a good light. One hopes better counsel will still prevail and they will desist from such desperate action.

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The Soren show
Judiciary does not buy his tale

MR Shibu Soren's antics over the past fortnight following the issuance of a non-bailable warrant of arrest in a three-decade-old murder case were neither amusing nor acceptable. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader should do some honest introspection about what he achieved by evading arrest, instead of promptly resigning from the Union Cabinet. Some of the answers are obvious. He provided the Opposition an issue for embarrassing the UPA government. His unbecoming conduct as a Cabinet Minister caused some damage to the Manmohan Singh government’s image.

The petition before the Jharkhand High Court was, in any case, moved to shortcircuit the due process of law. The issue whether the warrant of arrest was legally tenable could have been decided even after his formal arrest. The court may even have granted him relief had he not tried to force its hands by going out of circulation during the hearing of the petition. The court saw through the game. It delayed action on his plea, perhaps, to convey a subtle message to him to surrender. He has now threatened to expose the Bharatiya Janata Party in the court for reviving the case against him with political ill intent. He could have said as much after giving himself up 15 days ago.

On Friday he addressed the media in Ranchi and made the usual noises. Indeed questions could be raised over the timing of the arrest warrant. Eleven people were killed in Chirrudih in Santhal Pargana in January, 1975, during the Jharkhand movement. Mr Soren was among the 69 persons booked for the massacre. Why did the judicial process remain in hibernation for 30 years? However, Mr Soren is not the only politician to have become a minister in spite of alleged involvement in heinous crimes. There are indications that his supporters may whip up the kind of passion that resulted in the Chirrudih violence. He must demonstrate that he has had a change of heart and was willing to conduct himself as a responsible leader. Mob violence would not only weaken his case but cause further damage to the image of the coalition.

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Nariman’s Bill
Ensuring speedy justice

EMINENT jurist and Member of Parliament (Nominated) Fali S. Nariman’s introduction of the Judicial Statistics Bill, 2004, in the Rajya Sabha assumes special significance in the context of the huge backlog of cases and the courts’ inability to ensure speedy dispensation of justice. The Bill is unique for three reasons. First, it seeks to assess the performance of the judiciary at various levels. Second, it identifies the loopholes in the administration of justice. And third, it suggests possible ways by which the pending cases can be cleared. There is no denying that efforts have been made to tackle these problems over the years. The Vajpayee government initiated a few amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Law Commission too dwelt on the subject extensively. However, there is no change in the ground situation. The result: there are over six crore cases pending in various courts today.

The Fali Nariman Bill deserves to be passed by Parliament because it not only deals with the problem of pending cases but also aims at making the judicial system more open and transparent. Equally significant is its thrust on judicial accountability because it is the people who are the ultimate sufferers. Nariman feels that if the people get to know vital details such as the names of the judges hearing the cases, the time being taken for a case to be heard and so on, it would help people assess the performance of the courts better and suggest measures to galvanise the judicial process.

The Bill should not be viewed as an attempt at diluting the concept of judicial independence. On the contrary, it seeks to maintain a harmonious balance between judicial independence and greater transparency. Moreover, it suggests the creation of authorities at various levels run by the judges themselves to collect judicial statistics and later bring out annual reports on the trends revealed by the statistics as in the US and the UK. The Bill will have served its purpose if it achieves the twin objective of demystifying the judicial process and ensuring speedy justice.

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Thought for the day

Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential.

— Winston Churchill

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Zero-error voters’ list
Arduous task for the Election Commission
by V. Eshwar Anand

AN accurate and updated voters’ list has long eluded the world’s largest democracy. The problem has only worsened after every Assembly and Lok Sabha election. “It was a sleepless night after I heard about faulty rolls in the Lok Sabha elections,” confessed Chief Election Commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy. Addressing the National Seminar on Electoral Reforms held in Bangalore recently, he said a zero-error voters’ list has indeed become a big challenge for the Election Commission.

The issue in question is that the right to vote is the most sacred right of a law-abiding citizen in a functioning democracy and he/she cannot be deprived of this right. More important, the right to vote is not a piece of paper but an opportunity to select the right candidate and, in the process, determine how best a state or country should be governed.

There are innumerable instances all over the country of large-scale omissions. For as many as 10 days, The Tribune carried names of hundreds of missing voters of Chandigarh and around with a view to highlighting how they were peremptorily left out in the Lok Sabha elections despite having valid photo identity cards. Even as the list was confined to the city and its neighbourhood, The Tribune office was flooded with complaints from the readers. The number would have been mind-boggling had the scope of the survey been extended.

How would people have faith and confidence in a system if it does not ensure correct electoral rolls? Undoubtedly, the system of enumeration and finalisation of the rolls has not been complete or foolproof. The Election Commission has now ordered an intensive revision of the electoral rolls with January 1, 2005, as the qualifying date in the seven North-Eastern states and special summary revision in other states and Union Territories, except Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh where Assembly elections are due later this year. The process of revision of rolls has, in fact, started on July 1. What is really needed is that the rolls are in a state of constant and perpetual revision.

It is just not enough that there is only one qualifying date — the first of January of a year. If provision is made for more qualifying dates, the chances of eligible persons seeking inclusion would necessarily be greater and a lapse on one occasion could be made good on another. And even as the facilities for enlisting are upgraded and enlarged, it is important that the rolls themselves are as nearly perfect as possible.

The names of all the eligible voters should find a place in the lists as a matter of course. To those who want to be doubly sure, adequate opportunities should be made available to check whether or not their names have been included in the rolls after the enumeration. This would require a display of the lists at numerous places to facilitate easy access. It won’t be enough if the electoral officials issue appeals to the people to exercise their franchise just on the poll eve. Periodic checking of the lists for large-scale omissions together with reminders to the voters to verify them will help make the rolls more comprehensive.

Mr Krishnamurthy admits that voters’ rolls are tinkered with either due to bias, indifference or dereliction of duty. If this is the case, stern action will have to be taken against the officials. True, Chief Ministers do try to shield their officers as in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Bihar. But the Commission should show no leniency towards them for gross irregularities in the enumeration of rolls. Accountability must be fixed on the officials for dereliction.

Encouragingly, the civil society has come forward to help the Election Commission in the gigantic task of electoral rolls. NGOs such as the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Lok Satta, Janagraha, Mazdoor Kissan Shakti Sanghathan, Parivartan and Abhyudaya have been playing a notable role in this regard. Based on field surveys by the Election Watch teams in various states, the ADR has brought out a compendium on the recent Lok Sabha elections.

After sustained efforts by NGOs, the Election Commission has now introduced steps such as electronic filing of Form 6 for voter registration, the use of post offices to help verify the accuracy of rolls (in the ensuing Maharashtra Assembly elections), no deletion of name without a show-cause notice and unless two persons are satisfied, and inclusion of a voter’s name if he/she meets the Returning Officers or the Election Commission with the election photo identity card. Mr Krishnamurthy has also promised that he will look into every complaint and inform the citizen about his/her number and polling station.

While all this is commendable, a lot more needs to be done. Enumerators need to be trained and provided maps of polling stations in urban areas. Their work should also be supervised effectively. The data entry operators too need adequate training. Checklists of vendors (these become the draft rolls in most cases) should be compared with the documents of enumerators. And claims and objections on the published draft rolls should be disposed of properly.

The system of electronic information on electoral rolls needs to be fine-tuned. The Election Commission, for instance, gives out CDs containing information such as house number, elector’s name, relationship, name of relation, sex, age, and identity card number in the Adobe Acrobat pdf file format. Janagraha, a Bangalore-based NGO, suggests information in Microsoft Access file, Excel file, or any other database format, with additional data such as full address, district, pincode and assembly constituency.

At present, activities like voter verification, compilation, change capture, deletions, etc, are done by making hard copy printouts, making comments on these hard copy, and subsequently re-compiling these for reports. If the information is provided in a database format, even as simple as Excel file, the efficiency of these activities will be greatly enhanced.

Volunteers could use laptops or even hand-held devices like simputers to verify capture changes, deletions etc. These actions can be compiled at the press of a button across polling stations and constituencies so that reports can be submitted via e-mail to a central location for subsequent collation to the Election Commission within 24 hours, across an entire state. Citizens desirous of changes to their records could have these changes automatically populate the appropriate forms, without the time-consuming process of re-writing the entire information on the forms.

The presence of voters’ names in multiple constituencies/polling lists could also be verified very quickly, by running simple programmes. Addition of names could also be compiled electronically so that the Election Commission could, after due verification, quickly incorporate these names into the voters’ rolls. If such information is placed on the Internet, citizens cannot do a search on these formats, for their names, and verify other aspects. The same information could also be used to be part of a Geographical Information System (GIS), where citizens could verify their names, see which polling station they belong to, and even establish the exact location of their polling station on a map.

It is said that the Election Commission would not face the problem of the data being changed if it provides information in a database format. While retaining the data in its original form, the Commission would be giving out only a copy of this data. Hence, changes made, if any, will be on these copies and not on the original data of the Commission. Moreover, the additional information sought like full address and pincode will only ease the process of verification for officials, NGOs and citizens.

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Mind your K’s and Q’s
by Saroop Krishen

THE British rulers never missed an opportunity to proclaim that Hindi is the language of the Hindus and Urdu of the Muslims. In fact that was a major plank in their policy of divide and rule and they liked to make the maximum use of it.

As against this an English professor of phonetics at Oxford University projected a contrary view on academic grounds. “Language” he said, “goes not by religion but by the region to which a person belongs”, and he gave a very telling example to support what he said.

He turned a Muslim student from Punjab in his class (A.Haq) and said, “Please give me your name”. Now people in Punjab have very great difficulty in pronouncing the Urdu sound ‘q’ and therefore as a matter of course use of the sound ‘k’ instead of it. So the student’s reply was a clear “A. Hak”. The professor then addressed a Hindu student (Mr Narain) from U.P. — “Please give me that gentleman’s name”. Narain most readily said, “Mr A. Haq”. On this the professor observed, “Gentleman Mr Haq, a Muslim, is unable to pronounce his own name correctly as he comes from Punjab where the Urdu ‘q’ is not known and Mr Narain a Hindu can do so easily because he is from U.P. where Urdu is spoken: So you see how the region determines one’s language and not the religion.”

This academic line of thinking, however, was never allowed to gain much currency and instead the traditional “colonial” view about the religion-language divide was drummed into the public mind as a reality beyond dispute.

One ploy in this game of politics, however, did not quite work out as had been intended. The ‘Id of sacrifices’ (Id-ul-Aza) has a second name also, that is, “Baqar Id”, “baqar” meaning ‘cow’ in Persian and Arabic. Seeing the potential of mischief in this term the British decided about the middle of the 19th century to bring it into general use in preference to the other name of the festival. They did not, however, allow for the Punjabi penchant for turning ‘q’ to ‘k’, and soon enough in Punjab “Baqar Id” because ‘Bakar Id’ — sacrifice of goats — in speech as well as occasionally in writing. That of course was in contrast quite an innocuous expression causing no difficulty to the Hindus. So what the British had hoped would be highly inflammatory ended up as the proverbial damp squib.

Tailpiece: The coach engaged by the university to train the team of the boat-race was, like the other members of his fraternity, a man rough of manner and, even more so, of language. One oarsman in the boat who was mild-tempered and of aristocratic origin was not doing too well with the rowing. As the work-out progressed the remarks of the coach to him became more and more pungent and personal. At last he could stand it no longer and rose up and protested, “Constructive criticism I can bear but sheer abuse I cannot tolerate”! Of course his movement upset the delicately-balanced boat and the entire crew found themselves floundering in the water.

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DATELINE LONDON
Bush, Blair: without friends in the world
No US regime has evoked such condemnation
by K.N. Malik

Will the Bush-Blair duo survive the storm over Iraq?
Will the Bush-Blair duo survive the storm over Iraq?

THERE is no doubt that the three recent reports, one investigating the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the other two — the US congressional report and the UK’s Butler report — were given fudged intelligence. These reports, as indeed most officially initiated investigations do, tried not to rock the bottom. The congressional report was released in “full”, but the US administration had censured its substantive portions.

Yet these reports provided sufficient evidence to condemn the US and the UK for invading and occupying Iraq resulting in the loss of thousands of innocent lives.

The reports clearly pointed out that the two reasons cited by the US and UK leaders for attacking Iraq were baseless. Iraq did not possess the weapons of mass destruction capable of being launched against the Western targets within 45 minutes. There was no evidence for the alleged nexus between Iraq and Al-Qaeda and Iraq’s complicity in the terrorists’ attack on the US in 2001.

Normally, the UN would have termed this as genocide, deserving the world’s condemnation and trial of leaders of countries who were responsible for this genocide. The UN did not condemn the illegal invasion or killing of thousands of innocent Iraqis, including women and children. It is true that the UN did not sanction the invasion before it was launched. But it did provide legality to this illegal misadventure after the event. It did nothing to condemn torture of Iraqi prisoners of this illegal war by US and British soldiers. And yet it has set up courts, of course at the behest of its paymasters, to try leaders of other countries for alleged genocide.

It is true that the present US Administration does not care for the world body, its closest allies or world opinion in general. It has often treated the world body with contempt and manipulated to suit its whims. It has exempted itself from the international court set up for providing justice for the global community. But the UN body could at least register its protest.

Now that the US President has “discovered a link” between Iran and Al-Qaeda and vowed to pursue Iran with the vigour and might the US pursued Iraq, the UN and the international community could have voiced its contempt for the US administration. The current Indian government, is privy to this conspiracy of silence.

This US Administration’s hatred for Iranian and Syrian regimes is well known. Syria has bent backward to save itself from the fury of the Bush administration. But the Iranian regime has tried to display a modicum of self respect.

Never before in history has any US administration evoked so much condemnation and hostility from such a large number of countries as the present one. It goes to its credit that for the first time in history the terrorists succeeded in targeting US mainland and paralysing its government and the country’s most prominent facilities for a considerable period of time. Credit must also go to this administration for alienating much of the Islamic world, including some of its most trusted allies over several decades.

The world does face hopelessness against the most powerful nation. The only other super power, the Soviet Union, has disintegrated and its successor state, Russia has not lived up to the expectations. Some of those who broke away from the former totalitarian regime, are vying with each other to please the US. China and India, former a world economic power and the latter hoping to claim that status in a few years, have not come out openly to lead the world against the oppressive US regime.

There are some in the US and the rest of the world who are hoping that the Bush regime might end in November and the world may be able to heave a sigh of relief. Similarly, a number of opponents of the illegal war and genocide in the UK are going to find an alternative to self-righteous and arrogant Blair regime. What are the chances for the current regimes in the US or its poodle in the UK to end soon, no one can safely predict. Governments these days do manipulate media and other instruments of public policy. The loss of faith in the political processes evidenced by the low percentage of voting in various elections across several countries, does not provide much hope though.

It is crystal clear for any person with reasonable intelligence that the Bush administration decided to occupy Iraq and earlier Iran for its strategic and economic reasons. It is for the same reason it is threatening Iran and in future target other countries. Many of its allies, small in number though and already dwindling by the day, are following the leader, hoping that some crumbs from the spoils of war may fall their way. The US calculations in the events after the occupation have completely upset their calculations. The resistance against the illegal occupation of the two countries, especially of Iraq, is so intense that some of US allies are finding it difficult to execute a few contracts which fell their way. The latest hostage taking has seriously upset calculations of US allies while the US and the UK regimes are finding face-saving ways to cut their losses mainly with an eye on election due in a couple of months.

The two countries which trained and bank rolled the terrorist who destroyed the world trade centre and bombed the Pentagon came from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two staunch allies of the US. Though the US is threatening Iran simply because it found evidence that some of the terrorists who struck at the US targets in 2001 passed through Iran, it is not bothered about those who brainwashed them in fanaticism and hatred, armed, trained and funded them . The US has been threatening to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities while bankrolling Pakistan, which has been responsible for selling nuclear weapon materials and technology across continents.

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Human traffickers target children
by Aditi Tandon

ALTHOUGH trafficking of women and children is not new, the number of trafficked persons from South Asia, estimated at 200,000 annually, is alarming. No wonder experts at the recently concluded 15th International AIDS Conference at Bangkok reiterated their commitment to address the linkage between trafficking and AIDS by developing strategies to encourage safe mobility and informed migration. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime admits that worldwide millions of women are under various forms of bondage, including sexual exploitation.

South Asia is particularly vulnerable. Asia houses two-third of the world’s poor. Two-third of these are women , who lead 20 to 40 per cent of households. The scenario is particularly grim for Asia, considering the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS among women aged 15 to 25 years in 2002 UNAIDS confirmed that 50 per cent of those living with the virus were women.

In India alone about 5,000 women are annually trafficked from Nepal as per a study by the US-based Coalition against Trafficking in Women. The Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development, in its report, states that though India’s HIV prevalence is only between 0.4 per cent and 1.3 per cent, it has the largest number of people living with HIV outside South Africa — an estimated 5.1 million in 2003. It also adds that 1 million in Asia-Pacific were infected with HIV in 2003.

Human Rights Watch records that the average age of girls trafficked from Nepal to India dropped from 14-16 in the 1980s to 10-14 years in 1994. The trend of increased demand for younger sex workers is said to be encouraged by the notion that they are less sexually experienced, hence disease-free, Making matters worse is the myth that infected persons can be cured if they have sex with younger children.

A Chandigarh-based correctional administration expert, Dr Upneet Lally, reasons. “This myth is fuelling rapes of minors. Trafficking for sex trade is particularly common in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh.

The fact that traffickers target children is also corroborated in the recent compilation by a team of UNDP Regional HIV and Development Programme, South and North East Asia. The study addresses trafficking as one of the fastest growing transnational crimes. It refers to better infrastructural facilities as a predominant factor behind the emergence of trafficking as a major “organised crime”, besides stating that the catchment area of traffickers is spreading beyond traditional enclaves to ensure supply.

The compilation mentions “Where there is no single “victim” stereotype, the majority of trafficked women are below the age of 25, with many in their mid-to-late teens. The fear of infection from HIV has driven traffickers to recruit younger girls, some as young as seven, erroneously perceived to be too young to have been infected.” Other studies suggest the number of trafficked persons infected by HIV/AIDS is rising.

The UNDP document adds that sex workers are most likely to be infected during the first six months of entering the trade when they have no bargaining power and are made to service more customers than others. “These are customers who refuse to use condoms and whom the more experienced sex workers refuse to service. Young girls are also subjected to frequent rapes to ‘break them in’, increasing their exposure to HIV.”

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God is one’s very “own”. It is the eternal relationship. One realises Him in proportion to the intensity of one’s feeling for him. Don’t be afraid. Always remember that somebody is protecting you.

— Sarada Devi

One must be very particular about telling the truth. Through truth, one cannot realise God.

— Sri Ramakrishna

Greed is like a dark prison and vices are like fetters around one’s feet.

— Guru Nanak

In the awakened man, there is no fear.

— The Buddha

He who knows his own self knows God.

— Prophet Muhammad

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