Britain’s Royal Air Force Gets Mandeep Kaur, Ali Omar, First Sikh, Muslim Padres

Mandeep Kaur was selected as a chaplain while studying in the UK for her doctorate in engineering


In a first for the British military, a Sikh and a Muslim “padres” have become part of the Royal Air Force Chaplain’s Branch, UK’s Ministry of Defence announced on Friday.

Flight Lieutenant Mandeep Kaur, who grew up in Punjab, becomes the first Sikh chaplain and Kenya-born Flight Lieutenant Ali Omar becomes the first Muslim chaplain.

Ms Kaur was selected as a chaplain while studying in the UK for her doctorate in engineering and has been working towards this role since 2005, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The two padres, as they are officially referred to, graduated at Royal Air Force (RAF) College Cranwell, RAF’s training and education academy, on Thursday, after completing reservist officer training.


Flight Lieutenant Mandeep Kaur, who grew up in Punjab, becomes the first Sikh chaplain and Kenya-born Flight Lieutenant Ali Omar becomes the first Muslim chaplain

“Padres provide spiritual and welfare support to all soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, and their families. They deploy on operations and aboard ships when they go on long deployments,” the MoD said.

“Padres can also go out on patrols and live on the front line, on hand for when personnel need them,” it notes.

The appointments form part of the Ministry’s new diversity strategy to increase diversity and inclusion across the armed forces.

The strategy titled ‘A Force for Inclusion’ is aimed at ensuring that diversity and inclusion are a major part of all of the department’s work, including workforce policies, culture and behaviour.

“It has been an absolute privilege to welcome our first Sikh and Muslim commissioned Chaplains into the Royal Air Force and I look forward immensely to working with them into the future,” said John Ellis, RAF Chaplain-In-Chief, the Venerable (Air-Vice Marshal).

“My role in the RAF as a flagbearer of the Muslim Chaplaincy will see me work with the RAF Chaplaincy branch to negotiate and establish the place of World Faith Chaplaincy within the RAF,” said Omar, who studied for his Master’s degree in translation studies at Portsmouth University before completing a post-graduate course and joining RAF ranks.

“An overdue and exciting venture that will see me work side by side as a commissioned Muslim chaplain along colleagues from different faiths,” he said.

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22-Year-Old Indian Guitarist Himanshu Sharma aka Shaggy Found Dead In Dubai Apartment: Report

Himanshu Sharma aka Shaggy was part of a Dubai-based band and was popular in colleges.


A 22-year-old popular Indian guitarist was found dead in his apartment in Dubai, a media report said Friday.

Himanshu Sharma, popularly known as Shaggy, was found dead at his apartment in Garhoud, about 14 kilometres from Dubai on Wednesday.

The Dubai Police have confirmed Mr Sharma’s death. The police have referred his body to the forensic medicine department and the report showed no irregularity in the guitarist’s death, the Khaleej Times reported.

“His body will be handed over to his family after the completion of administrative procedures,” the police said.

Himanshu Sharma was doing his internship as a fifth-year architecture student at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE Dubai Campus) at the time of his death.

The guitarist from the local band Metal Head was very popular across all colleges in Dubai Academic City and was known for his guitar skills, said his friend and fellow rock artist Gaurav Manna.

“The University has been informed today by the Police of the tragic death of Himanshu Sharma, a student of MAHE Dubai. It’s a moment of shock for all of us at the University. We are awaiting further information on the same,” said a spokesperson of MAHE.

Mr Sharma stood out for his great taste in music.

“He was popular in college, too, as he played guitar with a couple of successful bands like Slaves of Conspiracy and Nutmeg,” Mr Manna said.

“He was very friendly to everyone. It was always easy being around him. Even a stranger could become best friends with him in five minutes. His death affected everyone around him, close or not,” he said.

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Indian-American Woman Appointed To US Body Advocating Religious Freedom

Born and raised in Chicago, Anurima Bhargava is currently the founder and president of the Anthem of Us.


Indian-American Anurima Bhargava, a civil rights lawyer, has been appointed as a Commissioner to the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the US Congress to monitor, analyse and report on threats to religious freedom abroad.

Born and raised in Chicago, Ms Bhargava is currently the founder and president of the Anthem of Us, which describes itself as “a strategic advisory firm that works with educational institutions and corporations to promote dignity and justice for all”.

She has an extensive experience in various roles advocating for members of under-represented communities, including at the US Department of Justice and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF).

The USCIRF is currently headed by Tibetan-American Tenzin Dorjee.

Tenzin Dorjee commended House Leader Nancy Pelosi for appointing Bhargava as a USCIRF Commissioner.

“With an impressive background and a demonstrated commitment to advocating for members of minority communities in the United States and abroad, Anurima Bhargava brings an important new perspective that will enhance the work of the Commission, especially on democratic India, with whom the United States has a long and proud relationship,” he said.

In addition to her work at the Department of Justice and the LDF, Ms Bhargava served as a fellow at the Open Society Foundations and at the Harvard University.

Before attending law school, Ms Bhargava worked in India assisting women elected to local government. She has been a member of the Truman National Security Project and the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Seriously Considering Running For 2020 Presidency, Says Indian-American Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard, who converted to Hinduism early in her life, is highly popular among Indian-Americans.


Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker in the US Congress, has said that she was “seriously” considering running for the White House in 2020.

This is for the first time that the four-time Democratic lawmaker in the US house of Representatives from Hawaii has indicated that she may run for the presidency.

“I’m seriously considering it,” Ms Gabbard, 37, told MSNBC News on Wednesday in response to a question on her presidential aspirations.

If she announced her candidature, she would be the first Hindu ever to be running for the presidency in the United states. And if elected in 2020, she could be the youngest ever and first woman to be elected as the US president.

“I’m concerned about the direction of our country. I’m thinking through it very carefully,” Ms Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, said in response to a question on her presidential run.

Before challenging President Donald Trump in the November 2020 elections, she would have to fight it against her own Democratic party colleagues in primary elections beginning early that year.

In the last few weeks, Ms Gabbard has been talking to her party leaders and reaching out to Indian-Americans to get their feedback on the issue.

Ms Gabbard, who converted to Hinduism early in her life, is highly popular among Indian-Americans.

The 2020 presidential primary cycle is scheduled to kick off from the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020, followed by the New Hampshire Primary on February 11, Nevada caucus of February 15 and South Carolina on February 22.

President Donald Trump is all set to seek his re-election in 2020, none of the Democratic candidates have announced their bid yet. The Democratic race is expected to be crowded by the summer of 2019.

Among those Democrats speculated to run for the 2020 primaries include former vice president Joe Biden, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Kaine and Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris. 

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UK Puts On Hold Plans To Suspend ‘Golden Visa’, Sparks Controversy

Around 76 Indian millionaires used this visa category to gain permanent settlement in Britain since 2009


In a U-turn, the UK government on Wednesday put on hold plans to suspend “golden visa” category in reference to its use by super-rich foreign nationals, including Indians, to acquire fast-track settlement rights in Britain.

The Tier 1 Investor Visa, used by many high net-worth Indians over the years, was to be suspended from midnight last Friday over fears of its misuse.

The UK Home Office had said last week that the route would be suspended until new rules are put in place next year, under which independent, regulated auditors will assess such high net worth applicants’ financial and business interests and check they have had control of the funds for at least two years.

However, the Home Office said that the plans are on hold, without an explanation behind the decision.

“The Tier 1 (Investor) visa is not currently suspended, however we remain committed to reforming the route. A further announcement will be made in due course,” a Home Office spokesperson said.

Transparency International UK, a non-profit anti-corruption body which had welcomed the crackdown, condemned the reversal, which it said is believed to be the result of opposition from other government departments.

“It is vital that government has a joined-up approach to fighting corruption with departments working together in unison. We are concerned to hear conflicting messages on government action on this important issue over the past week,” said Rachel Davies Teka, Head of Advocacy at Transparency International UK.

“We call on the government to urgently clarify its policy towards the Tier 1 Visa Scheme, as well as set a timetable for when and how the promised review of previous recipients will be carried out,” she said.

The group said that any new investor visa system must be water-tight, and subject to independent checks to ensure it does not become a “red carpet” for those who seek to use the UK as a safe haven for their “ill-gotten gains”.

Under the scheme under review, a 2-million-pound investment bought a visa and indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after five years. An investment of 5 million pound cut down the eligibility period for ILR to three years and 10 million pound meant the investor could be eligible for permanent settlement within two years along with his or her dependents.

According to official figures, around 76 Indian millionaires have used this visa category to gain permanent settlement in Britain since 2009, with a peak of 16 Indian applicants in 2013 and seven last year. The highest number of the over 1,000 such visas issued last year went to Chinese and Russian millionaires.

The Home Office had launched an investigation into Tier 1 Investor visas issued to wealthy Russians as relations between the UK and Russia nose-dived following the deadly nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia earlier this year. It led to Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich withdrawing his Tier 1 Investor visa application and has since acquired Israeli citizenship instead.

The Home Office had confirmed that its probe into the visa route would not be limited to just Russian billionaires and would form part of a wider crackdown on money laundering.

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Indian Arrested On Charges Of Smuggling Foreign Nationals Into United States


A 38-year-old Indian national has been arrested on charges of smuggling foreign nationals into the US for private financial gain, according to Department of Justice. Bhavin Patel is charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to bring in and harbour aliens and six counts of smuggling foreign nationals into the US via commercial airline flights, New Jersey US Attorney Craig Carpenito said on Monday.

 He is scheduled to be arraigned on December 18, 2018, before US District Judge John Michael Vazquez.

Arrested by special agents of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on December 7, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Patel if convicted faces maximum potential sentence of 10 years in prison.

Each substantive charge of smuggling carries a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison.

In its court papers, HSI said that its beginning in October 2013, an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a smuggler began meeting with Patel in Bangkok. Patel told the undercover law enforcement officer that he wanted to smuggle Indian nationals into the US.

On three occasions, Patel or his conspirator transported the Indian nationals to an airport in Thailand, at which point the undercover law enforcement officer would purportedly use his contacts to smuggle them into the US via commercial airline flights.

Patel agreed to wire down payments for each individual to be smuggled into the US and to pay a balance of tens of thousands of dollars for each individual once the foreign nationals arrived in the United States, HSI alleged in its court papers.

Over the ensuing months, Patel arranged for six Indian nationals to be brought to Thailand for smuggling into the United States via Newark Liberty International Airport, HIS alleged.

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Indian-Origin Brexit Lawmaker Priti Patel Faces Backlash Over Ireland Food Shortage Remark

Priti Patel took to Twitter to highlight that her comments had been taken out of context


A prominent Indian-origin Brexiteer MP has come under pressure over her suggestion that potential food shortages between borders could be used as leverage to secure a better deal from the EU, ahead of a crucial vote in the UK Parliament next week over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Priti Patel, one of the most vocal Conservative Party MPs opposed to May’s deal, was reacting to a leaked UK government report indicating that there could be food shortages in Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It said the economic impact on Ireland would be worse than in the UK.

“This paper appears to show the government were well aware Ireland will face significant issues in a no-deal scenario. Why hasn’t this point been pressed home during negotiations,” she told ‘The Times’ in reference to the report.

“There is still time to go back to Brussels and get a better deal,” she said.

However, some Opposition party MPs reacted to it as a veiled threat to the UK’s neighbouring country of Ireland.

“Threatening Ireland in this way is as morally reprehensible as it is futile. Britain should be showing itself to be a dependable neighbour and friend in the future,” said Indian-origin Labour Party MP Lisa Nandy.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney added that Ms Patel’s comments were “ridiculous” and some others branded it as insensitive given Ireland’s history involving the Great Famine between 1845 and 1849.

However, Ms Patel took to Twitter to highlight that her comments had been taken out of context, saying, “It is clear my comments on ‘No Deal’ have been taken out of context by some. We should go back to Brussels & get a better deal. There is still time. Let’s take back control of borders, laws & money”.

The row played out against the backdrop of efforts to secure enough support to get Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons in the major Brexit vote planned for next Tuesday.

Most Opposition party MPs and many of her own MPs remain opposed to it with the central sticking point revolving around the so-called “backstop” involving open border arrangements between UK territory Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

Tory MPs are warning their leader that she could be forced to stand down as Prime Minister if her Brexit deal is defeated in the Commons next week.

Meanwhile, Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would consider delaying Britain’s exit from the EU to negotiate a better deal if his party came to power.

“If we go into government straight away we would start negotiating straight away. If it meant holding things a bit longer to do it, of course,” he said.

Britain’s formal Brexit Day is set as March 29 next year, which can be extended if agreed by the other 27 EU member-countries.

With the Commons vote on the Withdrawal Agreement increasingly expected to result in it being rejected by MPs, the risk of a no-deal Brexit chaotic Brexit have led to pressure mounting on May to delay the December 11 vote.

Many of her own MPs want her to go back to Brussels and seek more concessions from the European Union (EU) at a summit at the end of next week.

However, the EU has dismissed the idea of further negotiations on the agreement, setting the stage for potential stalemate and increasing hopes in some quarters of a “People’s Vote” or a second referendum to revisit the vote in favour of Brexit in June 2016.

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10 Indian Men Arrested In Thailand For Forging Marriage Documents

Twenty Indian suspects are still at large, Thailand police said (Representational)


Ten Indian men and 24 Thai women have been arrested in Thailand on charges of forging documents and filing falsified papers to authorities about their marriages, media reports said on Wednesday.

Twenty Indian suspects are still at large, Thai police said.

They had allegedly produced the falsified marriage certificates to district officials so that they could be legally allowed to reside and take care of their fake spouses, the police added.

The police arrested the 10 unidentified Indian nationals who had allegedly manipulated fake marriages with the 24 Thai women who had been hired as alleged accomplices in such bogus scams, Xinhua news agency reported.

Six unidentified Thai women were also yet to be located and arrested, an officer told Xinhua. They had been hired at a price of 500 to 5,000 baht to pretend as the Indians’ spouses, the police said.

Thailand’s Immigration Bureau Chief Surachate Hakparn on Tuesday instructed all immigration units throughout the country to crack down on foreigners on suspicion of possibly commit crimes and jeopardize national security.

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Indian-Origin Woman Found Dead In UK Home Was Killed By Cheating Husband

Jessica Patel, 34, was found with “serious injuries” and was pronounced dead in her home.


The husband of an Indian-origin woman who was found dead in her home in United Kingdom earlier this year has been found guilty of her murder.

His murder trial had opened last month and yesterday, a jury found him guilty of strangling his wife to death with a supermarket plastic bag so he could start a new life with his boyfriend whom he met on the gay dating app Grindr.

Thirty-four-year-old Indian-origin pharmacist Jessica Patel was found with “serious injuries” and was pronounced dead in her home in Middlesborough, northern England, in May this year. Her husband Mitesh Patel, 37, had denied killing her.

Justice James Goss of the Teesside Crown Court told the jury a life sentence was mandatory and he would determine Patel’s minimum term behind bars during a sentencing hearing today.

The court was told how the accused had planned to claim her two million pounds life insurance payout and move to Australia with lover Dr Amit Patel, described as his “soulmate”.

The jury heard the cheating husband met other men on Grindr and had made internet searches dating back years, including “I need to kill my wife”, “insulin overdose”, “plot to kill my wife, do I need a co-conspirator?”, “hiring hitman UK” and “how much methadone will kill you?”.

In July 2015, he told his Sydney-based lover Dr Amit: “Her days are marked.”

Mitesh Patel had insisted he was innocent and claimed he had returned home to find the couple’s house burgled and his wife’s wrists bound with duct tape.

But prosecutors presented evidence to the jury to show it was Patel himself who had tied her up after injecting her with insulin and strangling and suffocating her with a Tesco supermarket bag.

Jessica Patel’s family made a statement at the end of the trial, saying they were “devastated” by her death.

“She had simple dreams, all she ever wanted was to fall in love, have a family of her own and live happily ever after. The man we welcomed into our family, who promised to look after and protect her, betrayed her in every sense of the word, cheating her of her dreams, robbing her of her life and robbing us of her,” the statement said.

The court heard that Mitesh Patel regularly chatted with men on Grindr under the pseudonym “Prince”, using the gay dating app daily in front of employees at the pharmacy he ran with his wife. 

The jury was told that his gay double life became the pharmacy’s “worst kept secret”.

At the start of the trial, Justice Goss had said that it was agreed that the accused had been unfaithful to his wife with men, having used the dating app Grindr. He had therefore ruled out any jury member who had used the same dating app or visited the Patels’ pharmacy in Linthorpe since 2011 to be included for the trial to ensure impartiality.

The jury of six men and six women yesterday took three hours of deliberation to give their guilty verdict.

Jessica Patel ran the local chemist’s shop on Roman Road in Middlesborough with her husband, whom she met while studying at university in Manchester.

The couple’s home is close to their pharmacy, which they ran for around three years. Both the home and work premises were the focus of intense police searches in the days after the murder on May 14.

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Indians Biggest Foreign Investors In Dubai Real Estate: Report

Indians have invested hugely in Dubai realty in the first nine months of 2018.


Expecting high returns, Indians have invested hugely in Dubai realty in the first nine months of 2018, making them the largest chunk of all foreign investors in the sector, according to the latest statistics of the Department of Real Estate Studies & Research, Dubai Land Department (DLD), said a spokesperson on Tuesday.

Eyeing profits, Indian nationals have already poured a staggering Rs 16,800 crore in various realty projects in the emirate, which is also a global financial centre.

In fact, the DLD said Indian buyers have been consistently the highest foreign investors in the emirate”s realty sector given its strategic location, high investment and rental yields, capital appreciation and regulations making it an attractive proposition.

“We expected these numbers to pick up further at the upcoming DLD’s annual 4th Dubai Property Show (DPS) coming up in Mumbai from Dec 7-9. It will showcase exclusive Dubai real estate options with participation of renowned developers such as Nakheel, Falconcity of Wonders, Sobha Realty, Geminit Property and others,” company spokesperson said. 

On offer will be budget to luxury apartments, villas to beach properties, furnished homes and commercial properties. It will bring together Dubai’s real estate experts, developers and consultants under a single roof for interaction with potential Indian investors.

Globally, the Mumbai event will the 10th edition of the exhibition which has travelled to London and China this year, DPS General Manager Himanshu Gupta said. 

He said Indians have been living in Dubai for decades and contributed immensely to the business and economic growth of the country, with great optimism for the future.

Moreover, for Indian investors, Dubai is like a home-away-from-home given its familiar environment, close proximity to India, fantastic growth opportunities and increasing trust in the systems, Mr Gupta added.

The DPS, to be held at the MMRDA Grounds in Bandra Kurla Complex, will have seminars, upcoming investment hot-spots, financing options, legal advice pertaining to existing and new UAE real estate laws.

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