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India calm after verdict in controversial mosque-temple case

Obama to get festive welcome in India visit. India tries to retrieve its image after Commonwealth Games fiasco. India may pull off miracle over giant economic neighbor China. And could this happen in Hollywood … ever?

Muslim Indian leaves mosque


Top News: India was on edge awaiting the verdict of the Allahabad High Court in a 60-year-old legal battle over the title to the controversial Ayodhya holy site. India’s majority Hindus consider Ayodhya the birthplace of Rama, a prominent deity, and believe that the controversial site was home to a Rama temple built in the 11th century and subsequently razed by Muslim invaders in the 16th century to be replaced by a mosque. The site’s recent history is just as controversial. In 1992, a mob of Hindus brought down the mosque provoking bloody riots countrywide. The court judgment came as a surprise: One-third of the site will remain with the Muslims, one-third with a Hindu trust and another third is to be the site of the Rama temple. Indians heaved a sigh of relief as, contrary to some expectations, the verdict was greeted with peace and calm. But communal groups and political parties soon criticized the verdict and are gearing up for yet another court battle as parties plan their respective appeals.

The first-ever visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to India may not be a game-changer and is likely to be, more than anything, ordinary. Officials say no big ticket items have appeared on the agenda, though there is less than a month before for the state visit. Obama will arrive in India on Nov. 5, the night of Diwali, India’s vivid festival of lights. Michelle Obama is expected to accompany him on the visit but children Malia and Sasha will miss out as they are expected to be in school. Senior officials say Obama may steer clear of contentious political topics such as Kashmir, a prickly issue between India and its neighbor Pakistan. Obama might prioritize business and address a major business summit in Mumbai where he first lands. His speech at the summit is likely to focus on Indian companies creating jobs and opportunities in the United States.

India pulled off an elaborate and sensational opening to the Commonwealth Games, the occasion something of a face-saver. Earlier, India’s image took a worldwide battering as Games organizers bungled the set-up. India’s television channels provided a daily staple about all things gone wrong – collapsing bridges, filthy athletes’ accommodation, and cows and snakes in the Games Village. But the euphoria over the launch had barely subsided, when the unending roster of complaints returned just days later.  Athletes fell ill, transport arrangements failed to run smoothly and the spectator turnout was abysmally low.

Money: India's telecom subscriber base reached 670.60 million in August. Experts say the mobile services explosion is expected to set off a mobile social networking boom. The number of mobile social network users in India will touch 72 million by 2014, driven by dropping tariffs, falling smartphone prices and the launch of 3G services.  In July 2010, mobile social network users stood at 33 million, making India the seventh largest market globally. Young Indians and professionals are driving the adoption of mobile social networking in India, accounting for 70 percent of the total users in 2009.

India’s economic growth will soon start to outpace China’s thanks to a young and growing workforce, says the Economist magazine in an article titled, “India’s surprising economic miracle.”  India’s economy is expected to expand by 8.5 percent this year and its growth rate could overtake China by 2013, if not before. The country’s state may be weak but its private companies are strong, the article states. But India has a long way to go before it gets as rich as China. China’s economy is four times bigger. Economists say that India will grow faster than any other large country over the next 25 years.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion said it is in “constructive talks” with the Indian government over allowing interception and monitoring of its BlackBerry Messenger and corporate email services. RIM has suggested the formation of a joint consultative forum comprising the government, users and service providers to draw up procedures for intercepting services, since banning the service will be “counterproductive.” Earlier, India asked BlackBerry to set up an in-country server and share its encryption key or face a ban. Countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have threatened the Canadian firm with similar bans. 

Elsewhere: The mass hysteria surrounding Endhiran, a film made in the south Indian language Tamil, is enough to bust the myth that only Bollywood represents Indian cinema. Endhiran is Asia’s most expensive movie to date (official budget estimate $35 million) starring the country’s highest paid actor, 60-year-old Rajinikanth (rumored fee $7 million). On Oct. 1 the film debuted on a dizzying 2,250 screens worldwide, in three Indian languages. It ran continuously on opening day screening 84 shows in Chennai’s Mayajaal cinemas alone. So high was the demand for tickets that for the first couple of days shows sold within minutes of the box office opening. Fans camped out for several nights outside movie halls for tickets, played brass bands and bathed the star’s cutouts in milk and flower petals, and then sang and danced in the aisles during the film.  The cult and mystique of the southern Indian movie star is unmatched in India.