Sindh celebrates the girl child (and humanity)

It was very much of a Papa dont preach, keep your rosaries off my ovaries moment- an excellent day to be a denizen of Sindh – especially if you are a girl child.  The consequences of child marriage are terrible for mind and body alike.

Sharmila Farooqi and Rubina Qaimkhani are our heroes for having placed their lives on the line by leading on this bill. Interestingly enough, we have friends named Sharmila and Rubina- both Hindu Bengalis.

However as we see elsewhere in SAsia and on other humanitarian projects (for e.g. administering polio drops), passing laws is a necessary first step but only tight enforcement and co-opting of community leaders will make this a properly functional barrier against the sea of misogyny.
The Sindh Assembly on Monday passed the Sindh Child Marriages
Restraint Bill, 2014 prohibiting marriage of children below 18 years.

The assembly is the first provincial legislature in the country to approve a bill to curb child marriages.
the bill, the minimum for marriage is 18 years. Those found violating
the law would be punished in line with the penalty suggested in the
legislation. According to the law, in cases of underage
marriages, those involved can be sentenced to three years in prison and
they can also be fined.

The bill was first presented in the assembly in 2013 by Sharmila Farooqi and Rubina Qaimkhani.


Reposted from Latif’s Cavern
In Midnight’s Children there was a quotation where the Brits had forbidden the Indian Royalty from passing on their titles to children of mixed marriages. The reasoning went that if this was allowed within a few generations Indian Royalty would have become entirely European.
This is certainly borne out by the Aga Khan who at last count is a quarter Indo-Persian the rest Europe and all of his descendant have married Europeans (his grandson, potentially the future Aga Khan would be a sixteenth Indo-Persian).
At any rate I’m beginning to see this borne out in the Desi Elite among Kampala. The Ismaili intermarriage rate (the Aga Khan of course is their leader) is substantially higher than either that of the Muslim or Hindu communities. Of course the Ismailis tend to prefer conversion of the foreign spouses but even so it’s interesting to see that even the “halves” among the Ismaili community are so much more (they’ve been inter-marrying for more than a generation and even with Africans so it’s rather non-discriminatory even though heavily tiled towards Europeans). 
I know that the Aga Khan kept his titles despite intermarrying and even though he is both Royal & Spiritual leader I wonder how much of the British injunction against Royal intermarriage has actually kept desi marrying rates much lower than they should be. I don’t have the stars but observationally British Asians have the lowest out-marriage rates among the ethnic minorities.
The Parsis have strong admixtures (the Tatas have Europeans married in) and so do some elite Muslim families (Cipla’s founder has a Lithuianian Jewish mother) and of course so do the Nehrus but perhaps if the Brits had allowed intermarriage and not been so paternalistic India (the Indian world from Afghanistan to Burma at it’s greatest stretch) would have been far more anchored in Western ways?

“We love Pakistan army and ISI”

With India in the middle of high-voltage drama season, can Pakistan be left behind?

The Guardian journalists are thrilled by the images of a David casting stones on the Goliath. However at the end of the day nothing much will happen but the demise of Geo TV. Pak military boasts of a solid middle class base and it is one institution that Pakistanis of all stripes (except perhaps Balochis and MQM followers) admire. Still, taboos are meant to be broken and this unprecedented defiance of the “agencies” may help future journalists in going where no one has gone before. 

For decades Pakistan’s
Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence was the spy agency that
could not be named, let alone publicly criticised. The media would refer
only to the “agencies”, the “establishment” or, even more coyly, “the

But in the past week that taboo has been broken by the
Independent Media Corporation, Pakistan’s largest media group, which has
used the two biggest newspapers in the country and by far its most popular television network to daily hammer the ISI.

Geo editors cleared the bulletins for
non-stop coverage of the attempt to kill Mir and the claims by his
brother that the attack on his car had been directly ordered by the
ISI’s normally low profile chief, Zaheer-ul-Islam, whose picture the TV
channel displayed for hours.

The agency, Mir claimed, had been
infuriated by his Capital Talk programmes that criticised ISI tactics
against separatists in Balochistan province, where the military is accused of kidnapping and illegally detaining suspects.

Urdu-language Jang newspaper and its English stablemate, the News,
which like Geo followed up with a daily barrage of attacks against an
enormously powerful agency that has been accused of everything from
rigging elections to backing Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

unprecedented – the first time you have the ISI facing off with a media
channel in such a manner,” said Jugnu Mohsin,
a veteran newspaper
publisher who has watched the emergence of the boisterous private
television business since the sector was deregulated under the former
president Pervez Musharraf.

opinion is also divided, with many horrified by the unheard of attacks
on an institution that has cultivated an image for itself as a guardian
of Pakistan’s honour. There have been calls on social media for the
government to ban Geo and posters have gone up in some cities declaring
“We love Pakistan army and ISI”.

Although international human
rights groups have reported on the ISI harassing, kidnapping and even
torturing journalists in the past, they say there was simply no evidence
to support Mir’s claims that the ISI was responsible for the attack on
him. Mir has also been threatened by the Taliban, although no militant group claimed responsibility for the Karachi shooting.

see the hand of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, in the broadsides against the
The media mogul is the part-owner of the Independent Media
Corporation who helped turn Geo into a powerhouse with its signature
mix of sensationalist storytelling and commentators drawn from all sides
of Pakistan’s political debate…..Rahman is said to be convinced the much-trailed launch
of a new television channel is part of an ISI-backed effort to erode
Geo’s dominant market position.

Others believe he would never have
picked a fight with the ISI if he did not think he had high-powered
support from the government. Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif,
has pointedly failed to comment on Geo’s explosive charges so far, but
did rush to Mir’s hospital bedside in a move interpreted as a strong
show of support.

The army demonstrated its power when it asked the defence minister to send an official petition to the country’s broadcast regulator to shut down the station
for running what it claimed was a “vicious campaign” aimed at
“undermining the integrity and tarnishing the image of state
institution”. Boycotts of the group’s newspapers have been reported at
military bases across the country, while Geo has been dropped by many
local cable providers, which the company claims have been pressured by
the army.

Rival media groups have also gone on the offensive. The
Express group has attacked Geo for “running a malicious slander campaign
against Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency”.


(brown) Silicon Superman crushed by racism

You receive a minor wrist-slap for brutalizing another human being. As a brown super-man who conquered the commanding heights of Silicon Valley, you are still entitled to cry “racism.” 

Justice (poetic) was finally
done when Gurbaksh Chahal was ejected from the board of RadiumOne as a
result of “twitter backlash”. But lot of questions remain unanswered.
Why did the police behave so stupidly? Why did the girl turn hostile?
Did it matter that this guy is a big-time Obama donor? Our fear is that if he escapes now, the next victim may not wake up to tell the story.

The nightmare that women in India face on a daily basis is well known. Even three year old babies are not spared. Women (victims) are frequently blamed for the actions of the perps, often community pressure is exerted in such a brutal fashion that the woman feels compelled to commit suicide.

In contrast America is the place where one can expect justice regardless of family connections, wealth, gender, race….most of the time. It seems to be the case however if you are rich and powerful enough (and a big-time donor to the President of the USA) then you can get awarded community service for the privilege of having knocked your girl-friend unconscious (and brutalizing her 117 times). This is because men are entitled to be angry if they think that the woman has not been faithful enough.
India-born Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur has been fired as CEO of
company he founded by the company’s board following charges of battering
his girlfriend, even as he alleged that racial bias has colored the

According to reports in the tech media, the board of
RadiumOne, an internet advertising platform founded by Gurbaksh Chahal,
has fired him over a case relating to his conviction for battery and
domestic violence. Chahal, a Tarn Taran-born school dropout who founded
and sold two advertising companies for $340 million before he was 25,
reportedly kicked and battered his American girlfriend over a domestic
argument concerning her alleged infidelity.

Chahal, 31, pleaded
guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence and battery charges last week,
dodging 45 felony counts for the beating that was captured on
The video was ruled to be inadmissible in court because of
the nature of the way in which the police obtained it, and the victim
later declined to testify and cooperate with prosecutors.

However, in a controversial ruling, Chahal was sentenced to three years’
probation, 52 weeks in a domestic violence training program, and 25
hours of community service, but was spared jail time.

then Chahal has taken to social media to protest his innocence even as
pressure mounted on the board of RadiumOne to sack him. In a lengthy
rant on his blog on Sunday — under the headline “Can you handle the
truth?” — Chahal said he has been the “recipient of death threats and
hateful language aimed not just at what I was accused of, but attacking
me for my ethnicity, my social class, and even my gender.
Many would
gladly lynch me based because of my origin-and not the facts of my

“I fully understand the outrage of those who believe I
got off ‘lightly’ as asserted by numerous postings on social media
sites. But the $500 fine I agreed to pay, the equivalent of a speeding
ticket, is simply what those misdemeanors require, and in no way
reflects the toll that this ordeal has exacted on me,” he explained.

Virtually calling his girlfriend a prostitute, Chahal alleged that the
situation that resulted in his legal case began when he “discovered that
my girlfriend was having unprotected sex for money with other people”
which he claimed she testified to in her interviews with the cops.

“When I discovered this fact and confronted my girlfriend, we had a
normal argument. She called 9-11 after I told her I was going to contact
her father regarding her activities. And yes, I lost my temper. I
understand, accept full responsibility and sincerely apologize from the
bottom of my heart for that,” he said, adding that it was all “overblown
drama because it generates huge volumes of page views for the media
given what I have accomplished in the valley.”

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“When she awoke, her brother was gone”

The (true) story of Mhd. Husein (15 years) and Senwara Begum (9 years) facing the horrors of the actual sea (and also a sea of inhumanity), separated from their parents…..perhaps forever.

So…we are experiencing in real-time the impact of yet another 2 nation policy…this time by devotees of a Great Soul who instructed that even plants and animals are to be treated with kindness. 

It is perhaps churlish to ask at such a sad moment, but when will the history of children displaced by the partitions in South Asia be written, many of whom are still rotting away in so many slums? If we the browns will not take responsibility, will the white man (Associated Press) launch an investigation and write the report? The theories of competitive grievances tend to drown out the reality of all the grief and misery.

The powerful epigraph in Jyoti Grewal’s book on the Sikh riot victims (1984) comes to mind: ‘I write so I am not written out; I write so I am not written about.’
small boat was packed with 63 people, including 14 children and 10
women. They baked in the sun and vomited from the waves.
Nearly two
weeks passed, and then a boat with at least a dozen Myanmar soldiers
approached. They kicked and bludgeoned the Rohingya men with wooden
planks and iron rods, several passengers said.

tied Mohamad’s hands and lit a match, laughing as the smell of burnt
flesh wafted from his blistering arm. Senwara watched helplessly.
beatings finally stopped after Mohamad suspected money changed hands,
and the soldiers ordered the boat to leave. The government said the Navy
denied seizing any ships during that period.

“Tell us, do you have your Allah?” one Rohingya survivor quoted the soldiers as saying. “There is no Allah!”

The ship plodded on,
but it was falling apart. A sarong stuffed in a hole could not stop
water from bubbling through, and Senwara’s sticky rice and bits of bread
were gone. 

When they finally floated ashore in Thailand, she had no
idea where she was.

On shore, Mohamad and
Senwara were given rice and dry fish and then put on another small boat
without an engine. Thai troops pulled them far out to sea, cut the rope
and left them to drift without food or water, survivors said. Senwara
got sick after drinking sea water and eating ground-up wood.

The next day, they spotted a fishing boat. It was from Indonesia.
Once in Indonesia, after nearly a month
at sea, Mohamad and Senwara were transferred to a filthy detention
center with about 300 people, double its capacity.  

A riot soon broke out
there between the Rohingya and illegal Buddhist fishermen from Myanmar,
and eight Buddhists were beaten to death.

Senwara slept through the brawl in another area. When she awoke, her brother was gone.

a few months in jail with other Rohingya arrested from the fight,
Mohamad was released due to his age and left for neighboring Malaysia. Mohamad
found illegal work as a street sweeper, earning about $70 a month, and
now lives in a tiny hovel with about 17 other Rohingya men. He remains
tortured with guilt for leaving his little sister behind.

after the detention center riot, Senwara was registered as an asylum
seeker. She was moved to temporary U.N. housing in Medan, Indonesia, and
taken in by a Rohingya woman. She remains hurt and angry for being left
alone, and her heart aches for home.

Senwara’s parents didn’t learn the children were safe until more than eight months after their village was burned. On
that awful night, their mother, Anowar Begum, and father, Mohamad
Idris, fled with two babies into a lake.
Later, they searched
frantically and found five more of their nine children. The family ended
up in a squalid camp with tens of thousands of other homeless Rohingya
near Rakhine state’s capital, Sittwe. They had given up hope on Senwara
and Mohamad by the time an unknown Rohingya called from Indonesia to say
the children were safe.

Today, 22 months after their separation,
it’s only through technology that the family, now scattered across three
countries, can remain in touch.
Mohamad, in Malaysia, watches a
video clip of his sister playing soccer in Indonesia. Even as he breaks
down, he cannot look away from the little girl on the screen. Back
in Myanmar, Anowar stares at her daughter on a Skype video and sobs
into her headscarf. Senwara wipes away her own tears in Indonesia as her
father’s weathered face trembles.

“I don’t think I will ever be able to see my parents,” she says, softly. “For the rest of my life.”
The Associated Press reported the children’s story based on interviews and data from Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Beautiful people have it the worst

We really should exercise much more care when talking about beautiful people like Nargis Fakhri. The poor girl recently came in for some harsh treatment on the Koffee With Karan (KWK) show (Karan as in Karan Johar, the super-boss of Bollywood).

As she says, people consider her (unfairly) to be just a dumb, pretty face, and she wants to set the record straight…she is a talented, pretty face who hustled hard to find a royal patron who is duly appreciative of her talents (and her beauty).

It is not poor Nargis’s fault that she was born beautiful.
The attention that she has been showered with since childhood must have
been a heavy cross to bear. Also she is really tall (5’9″ !!!) and as
we know tall girls have limited match-up choices. Not for Nargis,
thankfully. She has Bollywood royalty as a boyfriend (Uday Chopra, son of the late legendary producer Yash Chopra).* 

in all, life is so harsh, so un-yielding for these tall, beautiful, super (wo)men who strive day after day to raise the spirits of the common
(wo)man. Superficial beauty aside, Nargis is one tough lady and she has the
will to win, fighting, scrambling, and hustling till the game is won. No shame in that, only glory. BTW,
she also has a new movie just coming out (Main Tera Hero). Best of luck,

*( If a filmi boss proposes to an upcoming
starlet this is rightfully condemned as a casting couch case. However if
the girl herself manages to hook-up with the boss and jump to the head
of the queue it is admired as a sign of personal initiative) 

Dharmics United vs. The Yavanas

As we arrive at the critical middle phase of elections, there is still space/time for one final piece of drama- Dr Manmohan Singh’s brother Daljit Singh Kohli has joined the BJP. He was supposedly motivated by the humiliation inflicted on bade bhaiya by the dastardly dragons at the Delhi Durbar (PM had no comments except to express personal sadness).

It is quite possible that Daljit is a Vibhisana (devil brother) and not a Lakshman (angel brother), but the stories of humiliation are vouched for by many people in the inner-most circle (incl. Sanjaya Baru).

Any other time such stunts would be dismissed as pure drama-bazi, but if your boat is already sinking even a few straws may prove to be too much of a burden, especially when the public has reason to suspect that there is no honor to be spared amongst this gang of thieves.

We have always been bemused by the plethora of articles criticizing the evil Modi vs. the pure as snow Congress and its unswerving commitment to protect minorities. The liberal mouthpieces such as Mukul Kesavan, Mihir Sharma, Aakar Patel (and many others, all non-Sikhs) have been confidently stating for some time now that the appointment of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister has helped erase the blood-stains from 1984. The lone dissenting voice is that of a Sikh- Hartosh Singh Bal – who aptly terms all of this as “secular nonsense.”

If we continue to press forward with a community polarization strategy (for which all parties are equally to blame) then Hindus + Sikhs + Jains + Buddhists (so-called Dharmic group represented by the present BJP/NDA) and even some Christian communities will be united against the Yavans, the invaders who foolishly claim that their motherland lies on some imaginary desert (Arabic) shores.

But there is hope for a better way. The younger generation of muslims in Delhi readily abandoned the Congress for the Aam Aadmi party which is led by the non-elite, middle class and is propounding a common-sense, left wing agenda (disturbed by a few antics here and there, a natural part of the growth experience). If the AAP is able to win some 50 odd seats it will be in a good position to drive the dynasty away from the privileged position it feels entitled to. And India will be a far better country for having shaken off all the parasites, apologists, foot-lickers, and sycophants as well. Enough is enough.


A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected the presence of a ‘Modi wave’ in the country, his stepbrother Daljit Singh Kohli joined the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in the presence of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Kohli stunned everyone, when he suddenly appeared on the dais, minutes after Modi and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal mounted the stage at a rally to support BJP’s Amritsar candidate Arun Jaitley.
Embracing Kohli into the fold, Modi said, “Dr Manmohan Singh’s brother has joined the BJP, and this will add to our strength. I welcome him into the party and assure him that this is not a membership party, but a relationship party. I promise him that whatever dreams for India and Punjab he has brought into the BJP, all of them will be fulfilled.”
Defending the PM, but lashing out at the Congress, Kohli said, “I put on record that my elder brother Sardar Manmohan Singh is a respected and honest gentleman. He has served the nation with full dedication and honesty. However, the Congress leadership never gave him a free hand and interfered in the functioning of the government. Because of this the nation is in a mess. I decided to join the BJP in the interest of the country and Punjab.
Secular Nonsense (Hartosh Singh Bal/Open magazine): 
…..several ‘secular’ commentators have joined issue with these right-wingers to make the claim that the Congress, despite 1984, is less of a danger than Narendra Modi.
The ‘despite’ is a problem. It takes a degree of armchair callousness to make light of the widows of Trilokpuri, as Mihir Sharma did with the easy claim that ‘1984’s victims aren’t living penniless in garbage dumps today as, around them, a state’s development is praised.’ 
(Aakar) Patel wrote in The Hindustan Times: ‘The fact is that the Congress has made its peace with Sikhs. To see this we need to only go through the names of Punjab’s legislators. Of the 46 Congress MLAs, 33 are Sikh (on the other hand 10 of the BJP’s 12 MLAs are Hindu).’ The fact, though, is nothing of the sort. Let me cite a fact from Gujarat. Earlier this year, in the Salaya municipality in Jamnagar district of Saurashtra, where 90 per cent of the population is Muslim, the BJP put up 24 Muslims for the 27 seats at stake, and all of them were successful.
Going by Patel’s logic, it would seem that the Muslims of Salaya love the BJP. But I have reported from Gujarat often enough to know this is not the case. There is a Hindi phrase that sums up their plight: ‘Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi’. If Patel had bothered to understand Punjab half as well as he understands Gujarat, he would know that in a state with a Sikh majority, the Congress and Akali Dal are the two alternative routes to power. If one is closed, the other is the only option. This has nothing to do with making one’s peace with a party, unless by making peace Patel implies exactly what the Hindi phrase suggests.
Kesavan is far more explicit in his admission of the extent and nature of the Congress’ culpability for 1984, but he ends his column in The Telegraph with a claim that goes beyond 2002 and 1984: ‘So the reason the dynastic Congress isn’t as dangerous as Modi’s BJP is dispiriting but straightforward: while the Congress is capable of communalism, it isn’t constituted by bigotry.’ This conclusion isn’t specific to Modi, it extends to almost any BJP administration. 
The problem is that Kesavan makes this claim while addressing the question of the 1984 killings. Murder or rape organised by a ‘secular’ party is no less serious than murder or rape at the behest of a communal ideology. You cannot privilege one party over another on this basis. Neither 2002 nor 1984 can ever be acceptable and either is enough to disqualify a party from a reasonable claim to power in this country.
If you consider the difference between the pursuit of justice post-2002 and post-1984, Kesavan’s explicit claim is what accounts for the active involvement of civil rights activists in Gujarat and their apathy in practice over the 1984 killings. Many of the activists who have done outstanding work in Gujarat, such as Teesta Setalvad, see no problem in maintaining close links with the Congress. They see the BJP and Modi as ever present dangers that need to be combated, but they treat 1984 as an aberration that lies in the past.
In a 2007 book The Clash Within published by Harvard University Press in the US and glowingly blurbed by none other than Amartya Sen, Martha C Nussbaum confronts the comparison thus: ‘The closest precedent to Gujarat… was the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi…’ She then goes on to make the claim that there were differences and that in the Delhi riots ‘rape and killing-by-incineration were not central elements of the violence’.
The central image of the 1984 killings is of Sikh men being burnt alive. Eyewitnesses tell of tyres tied around their necks and set on fire, others tell of a white powder that easily burst into flames. 
As for rape, Jyoti Grewal in her book Betrayed by the State, writes, ‘…I must respect their wishes which were explicit that I not repeat events, names and references. What I heard were the details of rapes, how family members were forced to rape their wives and daughters before the mob raped the women again; it was more than I could bear. 
Later in the book, she writes, ‘The issue of rape was buried… the community pressured them so much that the women just did not want to talk about rape.’ Women silenced once had been silenced again by one of the world’s leading feminists only to make a point about Gujarat. Consider the secular outrage we would have witnessed if a leading US conservative had written something so offensive about the Gujarat killings.
Despite such facts, there seems to be no shortage of commentators, largely non-Sikhs, who are willing to speak on behalf of the community and absolve the Congress of its role in 1984. It is no wonder the epigraph to Jyoti Grewal’s book reads, ‘I write so I am not written out; I write so I am not written about..

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Zack’s Thought Experiment of the Day

Imagine if the journalist had used the word “black” settlements to describe inner-city areas.

A Jewish Photographer’s Portrait of Arab Israeli Teenagers

Eighteen 05Jehad Nassar, 18, stands at the center of some of his gang members in Arrabe. Jehad has seen one of his friends lose his leg in a recent fight against another gang. Crime and gang disputes are very common, as the police hardly enter Arab settlements.

Natan Dvir
Turning 18 is the start of an important year for young Israelis. They typically finish high school, become legal adults, and get the right to vote. It’s also the year when the differences between two strata of Israeli society crystallize: While virtually all Jewish men and women join the military, most Arabs, who make up around 20 percent of the population of Israel, don’t.

On Bard’s (450) birthday, Romeo debarred

Romeo and Juliet dancing Bollywood Fusion in the rain to celebrate 450 years of the Bard? Alas, in the modern day Keystone State, the quality of mercy is highly strained.

Historians are unable to agree on the exact birth date of Shakespeare. Official celebrations mark it as April 23 (1564), but there are strong claims made for April 26. We personally prefer to celebrate everyday as Shakespeare day, since we love English (and English minus the Bard is a bit difficult to contemplate) and we love the day-to-day drama that takes place on this worldly stage, which if not always pitched at an epic Shakespearean level (thankfully), still manages to make our day (or break it).

One particular recent sketch that is tinged with much sadness: Pennsylvania authorities have suspended Patrick “Romeo” Farves from the school prom for having dared to offer a (plastic) rose to the beautiful and gracious Nina Davuluri.  Why? Surely the lady would not mind dancing a few steps with a young (if a bit too ambitious) boy. A missed opportunity for (brown-white) cross-culture pollination as well – Reihan Salam would have been pleased. 

Let us hope that not all young love is nipped in the bud in such a churlish fashion (Nina herself has requested for a royal pardon). The young adults now dreaming of making a grand entrance on the world-stage must be met with warmth, kindness, and understanding so that non-violent delights do not come to violent ends.

Pennsylvania teenager has been suspended for asking the first ever
Indian-American Miss America Nina Davuluri to the prom, the annual end
of the year dance for high school students.

Patrick Farves, 18,
also handed Davuluri a plastic flower after he asked her to the prom on
Thursday. She smiled — but he was suspended from school after the
stunt, New York Daily News reported.

The Central York High
School senior was given a three-day suspension for “deliberately
defying” school administrators’ requests that he not pop the question
after they learned of the planned stunt, the newspaper said.

He later apologized, writing a letter to the district’s assistant superintendent that he was honestly sorry for the commotion.

His suspension sparked a
#freepatty Twitter outcry where hundreds of students wrote about the
unfairness of the punishment, Daily News said.

Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri was crowned in September and has a whirlwind tour of visiting schools and events.
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Brown Pundits