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Noted classical musician Ustad Imrat Khan dies in US

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New Delhi | Classical music stalwart Ustad Imrat Khan, who dedicated his life to propagating the sitar and the surbahar worldwide, has died in the US after a brief illness, his son said Friday. He was 83.

He breathed his last on Thursday in a hospital in St Louis, his home for over two decades, after a stroke, his son Nishat Khan told PTI. “He had developed pneumonia. He was in hospital for a week. He had a stroke last night. He had not been keeping well for the last few months,” Nishat, a sitarist of repute himself, said before leaving for the US. The funeral will take place on Saturday, he said.

Imrat Khan, who famously turned down the Padma Shri last year saying the recognition had come too late and diminished his achievements, belonged to the illustrious Etawa gharana, or the Imdadkhani Gharana, named after his grandfather Ustad Imdad Khan.  His elder brother was Ustad Vilayat Khan.

The gharana, one of the oldest in India with a musical legacy of over 400 years, traces its roots to Agra. The family later moved to Etawa before finally settling down in Kolkata with Ustad Inayat Khan, Imrat Khan’s father.  The family is credited with developing the musical instrument surbahar, a stringed instrument that is sometimes called the “bass sitar”.

Imrat Khan toured the world with his music and performed at the Cannes Film Festival in 1970 for a Merchant-Ivory partnership. He was also a regular at various music festivals in India.

Calling his father one of the greatest surbarhar players of his time, Nishat said his father carried forward the country and the family’s heritage till the very end. “He was my guru, mentor, teacher and father. He was a great philosopher, an evangelist for music. He really carried forward the heritage of Indian classical music all over the world to the very end of his life,” Nishat said.

One of the big disappointments of his life was not being recognised for his musical contributions by the government even when his students and juniors were given the Padma awards.

Refusing the Padma Shri was not a matter of self-aggrandisement but “an issue of propriety”, he told PTI in an interview in February last year.  Having performed with stalwarts like his brother as well as Ustad Bismillah Khan, Ustad Amedjan Thirakwa Khan and Pandit V G Jog, Imrat Khan said he did not want to compromise this legacy by accepting the award.

“My music has been the centre-stage of my life and I have put it on the highest pedestal with a lifetime of devotion to its art, refusing any form of corruption to its form and essence. I do not expect at this moment in my life that my devotion and contributions be diminished to a level lower than my followers, students and sons – by age or reputation,” he had told PTI.  He said he had never compromised in his life.

“Why should I compromise now when this award presented to me is not parallel to my worldwide reputation and contributions in the name of the pure arts and culture of India?”  Nishat said his father was “heartbroken” when his name was announced as a Padma Shri winner.

“He was so disappointed that the award was being given to him when even my juniors were awarded with the Padma Shri. He was really sad and heartbroken about it.  “It’s an ‘anyay (injustice) that the government could not see his contribution to Indian classical music,” Nishat said.

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India invited as ‘Guest of Honour’ to OIC meet, Sushma Swaraj to attend

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Official sources said it was for the first time, India has been invited to an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting as a guest of honour.

 

New Delhi| In a significant move, India has been invited to the inaugural plenary of the foreign ministers’ conclave of the OIC, a powerful grouping of Muslim majority nations, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will attend it in Abu Dhabi next month as the ‘guest of honour’.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) called the invitation a “welcome recognition” of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world.

Official sources said it was for the first time, India has been invited to an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting as a guest of honour. The 46th Session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Abu Dhabi from March 1 to 2.

The invitation to India by the OIC comes at a time when India has been mounting a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan to isolate it internationally following the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

The OIC has usually been supportive of Pakistan and, often sided with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue.

The MEA said Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan invited Swaraj as the ‘guest of honour’ to address the inaugural plenary and that India was happy to accept the invitation.

“We see this invitation as the desire of the enlightened leadership of the UAE to go beyond our rapidly growing close bilateral ties and forge a true multifaceted partnership at the multilateral and international level,” the MEA said in a release.

“We see this invitation as a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE. We also see this invitation as a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world,” it said.

India is, therefore, happy to accept the invitation and thanked the leadership of the UAE for it, the ministry said.

Last year, Bangladesh proposed a restructuring of the charter of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to pave way for the inclusion of non-Muslim countries like India as an “observer state” of the 50-year old grouping.

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Assam hooch tragedy death toll mounts to 59, 200 taken ill

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Jorhat| At least 59 people have died and over 200 taken ill after consuming spurious liquor in tea gardens in Assam‘s Golaghat and Jorhat since Thursday night, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Saturday.

The death toll is rising every minute, the minister said after visiting Jorhat Medical College Hospital (JMCH) here.

“This morning the death toll in Golaghat and Jorhat districts was 59 and 200 people have been admitted to hospitals. The death toll and the number of people admitted are changing minute by minute,” Sarma told reporters after meeting some patients at the hospital.

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100 cars gutted in fire at Aero India 2019 show in Bengaluru

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Bengaluru | More than 100 cars have been gutted in to fire at the parking lot near the Aero India Show held at the Yelahankha air base in Bengaluru.

According to a local eye witness, a grass fire spread to parking area number 5 and some vehicles which were parked there have also caught fire. The fire department has stated that around 80-100 cars gutted in fire near the venue of the Aero India Show in Bengaluru.

 

Officials stated that around 10 fire engines have rushed to the spot. Responding on the incident Senior police official MNReddi tweeted, “Fire in the open field parking lot of aero show. Nearly 20 cars burnt. Fire fighting operations by Chief Fire Officer and 10 water tenders staff underway.”

Earlier on Tuesday, one fighter pilot was killed after two Surya Kiran Aircraft crashed during the rehearsal of the Aero India Show.

 

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