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India's oldest performing musician Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan passes away at 107

The grand old guru of Indian classical music, Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan, breathed his last in Kolkata on Thursday. He was 107 and is survived by his daughter and grandchildren. Condoling his death, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: "Saddened at the passing away of veteran vocalist Padma Bhushan Abdul Rashid Khan. India has lost a great gem in the world of music."

Khan, an exponent of the Gwalior gharana, was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2013, making him the oldest to receive the honour. Not just music, he was also known for his wrestling skills and poetry. Khan has written some 2,000 poems and used to write under the pseudonym of 'Rasan Piya'.

His musical journey was not without obstacles. Some even claimed that professional rivalry had once led to an attempt on his life. A jealous singer was reportedly so insecure after a jugalbandi with Khan that he bribed a waiter to mix mercury in Khan's food. The mercury ended affecting Khan's fingers. But it couldn't impact his voice. Even a hip surgery at the age of 90 couldn't take away his zest for performances.

Less than a month back, Pt Vijay Kichlu had recorded him for a Doordarshan project. "With age, the first thing that gets affected is the voice. But Khan saab had such a steady voice and very recently, he sung for over one-and-a-half hours," Kichlu said.

It was Kichlu, incidentally, who had got Khan to relocate to Kolkata and become a guru at the Sangeet Research Academy. "In the early 70s, I had organised a small tour with V G Yog, A T Kanan and Malabika Kanan. We were travelling in a redesigned matador to Kashmir. On our way, we stopped at Lucknow where I met the collector. He asked us to come to Raebareli for lunch and music," Kichlu recalled. 0That's where Kichlu first heard Khan's recital. "I was surprised that we had such an amazing singer and yet so few people knew about him. When we established the SRA in Kolkata, I invited him over. He had a repertoire of thousands of compositions besides his own creations," he said.

IFSC will be built at Make in India venue: Maharashtra CM Fadnavis

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday said the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) will be built at the same venue where the Make In India Week took place.

On the concluding day of the event on the sprawling MMRDA grounds at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), he said, “We will come up with a mega plan for IFCS at this very place which successfully held the Make In India Week.”

On the Centre’s bullet train project for which land will be required at BKC, Fadnavis said, “I have already held talks with the Centre on the matter. It has assured it would take a decision only after a consensus with the state.”

Australian Warren Richardson wins World Press Photo award

Australian photographer Warren Richardson has won this year's World Press Photo of the Year prize for his black-and-white image of a man and a child crossing through barbed wire from Serbia to Hungary. Richardson, who is based in Budapest, Hungary, made the photo last August, after camping with refugees who were trying to make it across the border before dawn to avoid detection by police. The winners of the competition, which honors the best photojournalism worldwide in several categories, were announced February 18 in Amsterdam.  Francis Kohn, chair of this year’s World Press Photo jury and photo director of Agence France-Presse, said in a statement that the image stood out among other photos of the refugee crisis in Europe. “It had such power because of its simplicity, especially the symbolism of the barbed wire. We thought it had almost everything in there to give a strong visual of what’s happening with the refugees.”

India, Myanmar conduct fourth coordinated patrol

For the fourth year in a row, India and Myanmar undertook coordinated patrol in the Andaman Sea, a statement said on Thursday.

At the closing ceremony after the patrol, India and Myanmar signed the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the India-Myanmar Coordinated Patrol (IMCOR).

"The signing of the SOP is a significant achievement and will facilitate smooth conduct of coordinated patrols between two friendly neighbours that share a long maritime boundary in the strategically significant Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal," the statement said.

Navies of the two countries have conducted coordinated patrols along the maritime boundary since 2013.

The fourth edition of the India-Myanmar Coordinated Patrol (IMCOR) was undertaken from February 13 to 16, along the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the Andaman Sea.

Indian Navy ships Saryu and Bitra along with Myanmar ships Aung Zeya and FAC 563 participated in the patrol.

Besides Myanmar, India has formal agreement for joint patrol only with two other navies -- Thailand and Indonesia.

Renowned Indologist awarded prestigious Israel Prize

Renowned Indologist Professor David Shulman has been awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for his breakthrough studies in fields like religion and philosophy.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett made the announcement at the recommendation of the prize committee, headed by Professor Shaul Shaked, leading to a bitter debate in right—wing leaning media here which disapproved of the award for Prof. Shulman’s known left—wing inclinations.

The committee said that Professor Shulman of Hebrew University of Jerusalem is “a brilliant researcher who had done breakthrough studies on the religion, literature, and culture of southern India“.

“He is an internationally renowned expert in this field, and his work is enhanced by his command of a wide range of languages, including Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam”, it added.

67-year-old Shulman is known to be active in a left—wing organisation, Ta’ayush, a joint Israeli—Palestinian initiative active in the south Hebron Hills.

This made several media outlets to push the Education Ministry for a comment as it is headed by a right—wing minister who has been in news for his views against left—wing activists.

“The Israel Prize for Religious Studies is given to Professor Shulman for his breakthrough research into the literature and culture of southern India. Minister Bennett believes that one should not disqualify someone for his opinions, left or right, whatever they may be,” the Ministry said.

Israel Prize is considered the country’s highest honour presented annually on Independence Day. It is given to those who have displayed excellence in their fields, or have contributed strongly to Israeli culture or the State.

The prize committee in its recommendation wrote that Prof. Shulman’s studies “excel in their diversity, dealing with literary genres and various research topics including religion, mythology, art, folklore and imagination.

In Israel he founded the field of India studies and most India researchers in Israel are his students.

Professor Shulman has made an important contribution to research management and teaching in Israeli universities.

Through his books and translations, Prof. Shulman introduced the field of India studies to Israeli academia and the general public, acting as a sort of ambassador for Indian civilisation in Israel.

U.S. born Shulman won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1987, making him the first Israeli to be conferred with the honour.

He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Sciences and a winner of the Emet Prize, awarded annually by the Prime Minister’s Office for excellence in academic and professional achievements.
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