Varanasi’s temple corridor destroys old neighborhood

1 / 2
Some 300 homes have been earmarked for demolition. (AFP)
2 / 2
India’s ancient city of Varanasi is clearing the way for a grand temple corridor by razing hundreds of houses, wiping away its oldest neighborhood and irking locals. (AFP)
Updated 09 January 2019
0

Varanasi’s temple corridor destroys old neighborhood

  • Residents have been offered compensation and relocation options but said that some residents feel it is not adequate reimbursement
  • The $85,000 demolition project has also unearthed several ancient temples, statues, and historic buildings

NEW DELHI: India’s ancient city of Varanasi is clearing the way for a grand temple corridor by razing hundreds of houses, wiping away its oldest neighborhood and upsetting locals.
The aim is to improve accessibility for pilgrims by providing a direct pathway from the Ganges river to the 18th-century shrine of Lord Shiva, the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
For centuries Hindus have visited Varanasi to cremate their dead but it has often required navigating crowded alleyways to reach the city’s ghats, or riverside steps, where the caretakers of the cremation grounds pass flaming torches to the bereaved families to ignite wooden pyres dotting the banks.
Some 300 homes have been earmarked for demolition but locals, whose families have lived in the area for generations, say some of the properties being destroyed are as old as the temple itself.
Local resident Ajay Kapoor hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose constituency is Varanasi.
“Why should he care? By demolishing 300 houses, he will lose not even 10,000 votes,” Kapoor told the Hindu daily.
“But Banaras (Varanasi) is defined by its galis (narrow lanes), and by creating this corridor, he is robbing Banaras of its very identity.”
The report added that residents have been offered compensation and relocation options but said that some residents feel it is not adequate reimbursement for losing homes in an area of prime real estate.
The $85,000 demolition project has also unearthed several ancient temples, statues, and historic buildings, prompting debate on how best to preserve these whilst constructing the corridor.


Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

Updated 16 January 2019
0

Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

  • Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO
  • Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete”

WASHINGTON: Fresh doubts surfaced Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO, after he was reported to have discussed a desire to pull out of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO — the historic alliance that forms the backbone of the West’s post-World War II security order — and that he wanted to withdraw, The New York Times reported.
He has often blasted members of the 29-nation partnership for not paying more into their national defense budgets.
Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and soon after a tumultuous summit in July, he questioned whether the US would honor the alliance’s founding principle of mutual defense for newest member Montenegro.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US remains “100 percent” committed to NATO.
At the summit the president said the US “commitment to NATO is very strong” and “tremendous progress has been made” by allies and partners.
“That has not changed,” Pahon said in a statement.
“NATO remains the cornerstone of transatlantic security.”
In Brussels, a NATO official also highlighted Trump’s comments from the July summit.
“The United States is strongly committed to NATO and to transatlantic security,” the official told AFP.
“The US has significantly boosted its commitment to the defense of Europe, including with increased troop commitments.”
Turning 70 this year, NATO has underpinned Western security in Europe for decades, first countering the Soviet Union and then Russian expansionism.
A US withdrawal from NATO would be a strategic gift of epic proportions to Russia, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential elections to help Trump win.
Former defense secretary Jim Mattis was a staunch proponent of NATO and repeatedly visited its Brussels headquarters, where he sought to reassure allies about America’s commitment to the alliance.
But Mattis quit last month, and observers see a shrinking coterie of advisers around Trump willing to push back against him.
The US Congress, including Trump’s own Republican Party, would likely push back against any effort to withdraw from NATO.
The only country to have ever invoke Article 5, NATO’s collective defense principle, was America following the September 11, 2001 attacks.