Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence

Sultana Begum works on a garment inside her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Sultana Begum works on a garment inside her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum reacts while talking in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum reacts while talking in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Updated 30 December 2021

Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence

Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence
  • Sultana Begum's case rests on her claim that her late husband’s lineage can be traced to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor to reign
  • After a massive rebellion blamed on an already frail Zafar in the 1850s, British forces executed 10 of the ruler's surviving sons despite the royal family’s surrender

KOLKATA: A destitute Indian woman who claims she is heir to the dynasty that built the Taj Mahal has demanded ownership of an imposing palace once home to the Mughal emperors.
Sultana Begum lives in a cramped two-room hut nestled within a slum on the outskirts of Kolkata, surviving on a meagre pension.
Among her modest possessions are records of her marriage to Mirza Mohammad Bedar Bakht, purported to be the great-grandson of India’s last Mughal ruler.
His death in 1980 left her struggling to survive, and she has spent the past decade petitioning authorities to recognize her royal status and compensate her accordingly.
“Can you imagine that the descendant of the emperors who built Taj Mahal now lives in desperate poverty?” the 68-year-old asked AFP.
Begum has lodged a court case seeking recognition that she is rightful owner of the imposing 17th-century Red Fort, a sprawling and pockmarked castle in New Delhi that was once the seat of Mughal power.
“I hope the government will definitely give me justice,” she said. “When something belongs to someone, it should be returned.”




Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP) 

Her case, supported by sympathetic campaigners, rests on her claim that her late husband’s lineage can be traced to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor to reign.
By the time of Zafar’s coronation in 1837, the Mughal empire had shrunk to the capital’s boundaries, after the conquest of India by the commercial venture of British merchants known as the East India Company.
A massive rebellion two decades later — now hailed as India’s first war of independence — saw mutinous soldiers declare the now frail 82-year-old as the leader of their insurrection.
The emperor, who preferred penning poetry to waging war, knew the chaotic uprising was doomed and was a reluctant leader.
British forces surrounded Delhi within a month and ruthlessly crushed the revolt, executing all 10 of Zafar’s surviving sons despite the royal family’s surrender.
Zafar himself was exiled to neighboring Myanmar, traveling under guard in a bullock cart, and died penniless in captivity five years later.

Many of the Red Fort’s buildings were demolished in the years after the uprising and the complex fell into disrepair before colonial authorities ordered its renovation at the turn of the 20th century.
It has since become a potent symbol of freedom from British rule.
India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the national flag from the fort’s main gate to mark the first day of independence in August 1947, a solemn ritual now repeated annually by his successors.
Begum’s court case hinges on the argument that India’s government are the illegal occupants of the property, which she says should have been passed down to her.
The Delhi High Court rejected her petition last week as a “gross waste of time” — but did not rule on whether her claim to imperial ancestry was legitimate.
Instead the court said her legal team had failed to justify why a similar case had not been brought by Zafar’s descendants in the 150 years since his exile.
Her lawyer Vivek More said the case would continue.
“She has decided to file a plea before a higher bench of the court challenging the order,” he told AFP by phone.

Begum has endured a precarious life, even before she was widowed and forced to move into the slum she now calls home.




In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begun walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)

Her husband — who she married in 1965 when she was just 14 — was 32 years her senior and earned some money as a soothsayer, but was unable to provide for their family.
“Poverty, fear and lack of resources pushed him to the brink,” she added.
Begum lives with one of her grandchildren in a small shack, sharing a kitchen with neighbors and washing at a communal tap down the street.
For some years she ran a small tea shop near her home but it was demolished to allow the widening of a road, and she now survives on a pension of 6,000 rupees ($80) per month.
But she has not given up hope that authorities will recognize her as the rightful beneficiary of India’s imperial legacy, and of the Red Fort.
“I hope that today, tomorrow or in 10 years, I will get what I’m entitled to,” she said.
“God willing, I will get it back... I’m certain justice will happen.”


Party leader? Finland’s highly-celebrated female PM displays a whole different definition

Party leader? Finland’s highly-celebrated female PM displays a whole different definition
Updated 18 August 2022

Party leader? Finland’s highly-celebrated female PM displays a whole different definition

Party leader? Finland’s highly-celebrated female PM displays a whole different definition
  • PM Sanna Marin has whipped up a social media storm after a leaked video of her partying

LONDON: Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has whipped up a social media storm after a leaked video appeared to show the premier taking her role as “party leader” to a whole new level.

In the video, the 36-year-old darling of Finland’s center-left is seen partying and throwing shapes with friends, including famous media personalities, pop singers and rappers.

The video has divided Twitter, with many praising Marin as the “coolest leader ever.”

But some have pointed out the hypocrisy of praising the PM, given the level of criticism thrown at her UK male counterpart, Boris Johnson, for his lockdown antics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson was branded a “clown” for his lockdown parties, but Marin’s dancing was deemed “stunning and brave,” @jedi_greek pointed out.

The UK prime minister faced police probes and overwhelming political pressure to resign over gatherings he attended during the pandemic, but Finnish politics journalist and media commentator Robert Sundman told the BBC Marin’s partying had so far “not affected popularity of her or her party.”

Amid the swathes of positive comments on social media, another pointed out the ridicule former US President Donald Trump came in for when he danced to “YMCA” at campaign rallies in 2020. 

Others, including fellow politicians, said Marin was shirking her duties in leading the Finnish people and slammed her behavior as “not fitting for a prime minister.”

Finnish conservative politician Aatu Puisto posted on Twitter saying Marin’s behavior was “clearly” too much.

Puisto told Arab News the office of prime minister had to be respected, regardless of the gender of its holder.

“In my perspective, the public opinion of the prime minister’s party video would be same, regardless of gender, this is not about the gender at all,” he told Arab News.

“The (office of) prime minister is an institution, in that place, you should have more respect for that institution,” he added.

Meanwhile, @Mihir_The1 tweeted: “She represents the highest office of her country. The problem isn’t the partying but to what extent she indulges in it and in other wasteful activities, if the time spent on them is excessive then she isn’t fit to be PM and should vacate her post in the interests of her nation.”

Lawyer and economist Saara Lifflander was scathing in highlighting that Marin was busy partying at the same time she was “preparing you for power cuts next winter.”

Marin sought to defend herself after the video became public, saying she did not see a reason to change her behavior.

Amid a backlash from opposition politicians, one leader demanded she take a drug test amid allegations of drug-taking.

However, Marin denied taking drugs and said she only drank alcohol while partying “in a boisterous way.”

She continued: “I have a family life, I have a work life and I have free time to spend with my friends, pretty much the same as many people my age.

“I am going to be exactly the same person as I have been until now and I hope that it will be accepted.”


Climate change causes wonky bumblebee wings: scientists

Climate change causes wonky bumblebee wings: scientists
Updated 18 August 2022

Climate change causes wonky bumblebee wings: scientists

Climate change causes wonky bumblebee wings: scientists
  • The large furry bees, known for their distinctive buzz, only feed on flowers, making them vulnerable to changes to the countryside due to intensive farming
  • Their population has declined in Britain over the past century, with two species becoming extinct

LONDON: Warmer and wetter weather linked to climate change appears to stress out bumblebees and make their wings more asymmetrical, which could ultimately affect their future development, according to UK scientists in a new research paper.
“With hotter and wetter conditions predicted to place bumblebees under higher stress, the fact these conditions will become more frequent under climate change means bumblebees may be in for a rough time over the 21st century,” scientists at Imperial College, London, wrote in the Animal Ecology journal on Wednesday.
The large furry bees, known for their distinctive buzz, only feed on flowers, making them vulnerable to changes to the countryside due to intensive farming.
Their population has declined in Britain over the past century, with two species becoming extinct, according to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
The Imperial College scientists looked at more than 6,000 bumblebee specimens in natural history museums, collected across Britain during the 20th century.
The scientists examined the right-left symmetry between the bees’ four wings, because asymmetry is an indication that the insect experienced stress during development.
They found that bees from the second half of the 20th century consistently had a higher average rate of asymmetry.
Asymmetry was also “consistently higher in warmer and wetter years,” according to the paper’s senior co-author Richard Gill.
“Overall, these results could suggest bumblebees experienced increasing stress as the century progressed and that aspects of climate change could have contributed to this trend,” the paper said.
The weather conditions linked to wonky wings “will likely increase in frequency with climate change,” it continued.
In April, scientists in the United States who studied more than 20,000 bees in the Rocky Mountains found that bumblebees had lower heat tolerance than smaller bees and were “more threatened under climate warming than other bees.”
Insects are facing a huge impact from both warming climate and intensive agriculture.
Another study released in April in the journal Nature found that these factors cause insect populations to plummet by nearly half compared to areas less affected by temperature rises and industrial farming.


UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days
Updated 17 August 2022

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days

UAE: Extreme weather condition over – for now, but chance of rain in coming days
  • Weather center also said some parts of the country would experience dusty winds for the rest of the week

DUBAI: UAE authorities say the extreme weather conditions across the country have ended, after a two-day sandstorm earlier this week hampered visibility and caused disruption.
The National Center of Meteorology (NCM) however said there was still a chance that some local convective clouds will form over some eastern and southern regions, in addition to Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra region, with a possibility of rain in the coming days.
The weather center also said some parts of the country would experience dusty winds for the rest of the week.
“Fair to partly cloudy in general and dusty at times, with a probability of convective clouds formation Eastwards by afternoon, may be associated with rainfall. Light to moderate winds, fresh at times, causing blowing dust during daytime. The sea will be slight in the Arabian Gulf and in Oman Sea,” NCM said in its weather bulletin for Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Temperatures could reach as high as 47°C in internal areas of the UAE and as low as 24°C in mountain areas, the center added.


Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo
Updated 17 August 2022

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo

Monkey business behind 911 call from California zoo
  • a Capuchin monkey named Route had apparently picked up the zoo's cellphone, which was in a golf cart used to move about the property

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.: Cops usually have a prime suspect. In this case it's a primate suspect.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office believes it was a little Capuchin monkey that called 911 from a zoo last Saturday night.
The call disconnected and dispatchers tried to call and text back but there was no response, so deputies were sent to investigate, the office said in a social media post.
The address turned out to be the Zoo to You near Paso Robles, but the deputies found that no one there made the call.
They finally deduced that a Capuchin monkey named Route had apparently picked up the zoo's cellphone, which was in a golf cart used to move about the property.
“We’re told Capuchin monkeys are very inquisitive and will grab anything and everything and just start pushing buttons,” the office's post said.

 


OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots
Updated 17 August 2022

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

OK Google, get me a Coke: AI giant demos soda-fetching robots

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Alphabet Inc’s Google is combining the eyes and arms of physical robots with the knowledge and conversation skills of virtual chatbots to help its employees fetch soda and chips from breakrooms with ease.
The mechanical waiters, shown in action to reporters last week, embody an artificial intelligence breakthrough that paves the way for multipurpose robots as easy to control as ones that perform single, structured tasks such as vacuuming or standing guard.
Google robots are not ready for sale. They perform only a few dozen simple actions, and the company has not yet embedded them with the “OK, Google” summoning feature familiar to consumers.

A Google robot moves while carrying a bag of chips during a demonstration for members of the media at a micro-kitchen in Google’s robotics research space in Mountain View, California, U.S. August 11, 2022. (REUTERS)

While Google says it is pursuing development responsibly, adoption could ultimately stall over concerns such as robots becoming surveillance machines, or being equipped with chat technology that can give offensive responses, as Meta Platforms Inc. and others have experienced in recent years.
Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. are pursuing comparable research on robots.
“It’s going to take a while before we can really have a firm grasp on the direct commercial impact,” said Vincent Vanhoucke, senior director for Google’s robotics research.
When asked to help clean a spill, Google’s robot recognizes that grabbing a sponge is a doable and more sensible response than apologizing for creating the mess.
The robots interpret naturally spoken commands, weigh possible actions against their capabilities and plan smaller steps to achieve the ask.
The chain is made possible by infusing the robots with language technology that draws understanding of the world from Wikipedia, social media and other webpages. Similar AI underlies chatbots or virtual assistants, but has not been applied to robots this expansively before, Google said.
It unveiled the effort in a research paper in April. Incorporating more sophisticated language AI since then boosted the robots’ success on commands to 74 percent from 61 percent, according a company blog post on Tuesday.
Fellow Alphabet subsidiary Everyday Robots designs the robots, which for now will stay confined to grabbing snacks for employees.