Sacked Catalan leader vows to lead despite Spain ‘threats’

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont (C) arrives at the University of Copenhagen to take part in a debate entitled: “Catalonia and Europe at a crossraods for democracy?” on January 22, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Sacked Catalan leader vows to lead despite Spain ‘threats’

COPENHAGEN: Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Monday vowed to form a new government despite “threats” from the central government in Madrid, after a Spanish judge refused to re-issue a European warrant for his arrest.
Speaking at a debate on Catalonia at the University of Copenhagen, Puigdemont said: “We will not surrender to authoritarianism despite Madrid’s threats.”
“Soon we will form a new government... it’s time to end their oppression and find a political solution for Catalonia,” the 55-year-old politician added.
Puigdemont’s comments came hours after the speaker of the Catalan parliament proposed him as president of Catalonia following an election in December in which separatist parties once again won an absolute majority.
Roger Torrent said Puigdemont’s candidacy to once again head Catalonia’s regional government is “absolutely legitimate,” even though the secessionist leader faces criminal proceedings in Spain over his role in Catalonia’s independence drive.
Puigdemont defied Spanish prosecutors’ attempt to re-issue a European arrest warrant if he left Belgium, where he has been in exile since a failed independence bid.
But Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena turned down the request, arguing Puigdemont had gone to Denmark “to provoke this arrest abroad” as part of a strategy to boost his arguments in favor of being allowed to be sworn in as president of Catalonia again.
Puigdemont wants to be sworn in from Belgium, where he fled in late October after the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence, sparking shock waves across an EU already shaken by Britain’s vote to leave.

Madrid sacked Puigdemont and his entire government, and it dissolved the parliament following the declaration.
Charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, Puigdemont now faces arrest if he returns to Spain over his role in the independence drive.
“Fundamental freedoms have been undermined, democratically elected politicians have been sent to prison and treated like terrorists,” he told students in Copenhagen, describing the moves as acts of “revenge.”


Mysterious naked holy men a huge draw at India’s Kumbh Mela

Updated 17 January 2019
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Mysterious naked holy men a huge draw at India’s Kumbh Mela

  • Organizers expect up to 150 million people to bathe at the confluence of three holy rivers
  • The Kumbh Mela has its roots in a Hindu tradition that says the god Vishnu wrested a golden pot containing the nectar of immortality from demons

PRAYAGRAJ, India: Ash-smeared and dreadlocked Naga sadhus or Hindu ascetics, naked except for rosary beads and garlands and smoking wooden pipes, are a huge draw at the world’s largest religious festival that began this week in India.
At the Kumbh Mela, or “festival of the pot,” held this year in Prayagraj in north India, organizers expect up to 150 million people to bathe at the confluence of three holy rivers: the Ganges, the Yamuna and a mythical third river, the Saraswati.
The festival is one of the only opportunities to see the reclusive Naga sadhus, some of whom live in caves after taking a vow of celibacy and renouncing worldly possessions.
Their charge down to the waters to bathe at the opening of the Kumbh, many armed with tridents and swords, is one of the highlights of the festival.
“It is a confluence of all Naga sadhus at the meeting point of these holy rivers,” said Anandnad Saraswati, a Naga sadhu from Mathura, a holy city in north India.
“They meet each other, they interact with each other and they meditate and pray here at the holy confluence. They give their message to the people and they transform people.”
Most of the Nagas enter the orders in their early teens, leaving their friends and families to immerse themselves in meditation, yoga and religious rituals. It can take years to be conferred with the title of a Naga, they say.
“One has to live a life of celibacy for six years. After that the person is given the title of a great man and 12 years after that he is made a Naga,” said Digambar Kedar Giri, a Naga sadhu from Jaipur.
During the eight-week Kumbh, generally held every three years in one of four cities in India, the Nagas live in makeshift monasteries called Akhara erected on the eastern banks of the Ganges.
They spend their days meditating and receiving a stream of visitors who come to pay their respects.
“It feels surreal: all this time you have read about them. They are almost like fictional characters and then you meet them,” said a woman who gave her name as Pallavi, on a visit to the Akharas.
The Kumbh Mela has its roots in a Hindu tradition that says the god Vishnu wrested a golden pot containing the nectar of immortality from demons. In a 12-day fight for possession, four drops fell to earth, in the cities of Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik, who share the Kumbhs as a result.