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Sentinelese in shadows: A lesson in letting live

Sumit Mukherjee, a former Anthropological Survey of India researcher, who specialises in human ecology, questioned whether these tribes need “our kind of development”?

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Missionary John Chau North Sentinel Island

New Delhi, Dec 1 : John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old American missionary who “illegally” paddled his way to the remote shores of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, was recently killed by the protected Sentinelese tribe. Experts apprehend that his “trespassing” to contact the North Sentinel islanders, the “uncontacted” and “isolated” inhabitants, may have further endangered the existence of the bow-wielding natives.

Survival International, a global movement for the rights of tribal people, dubbed their rebuffing contact with the outside world a “wise choice”.

“Neighbouring tribes were wiped out after the British colonised their islands, and they lack immunity to common diseases like flu or measles, which would decimate their population,” it said in a statement.

After Chau’s death, the Andaman and Nicobar Police noted that “access to the North Sentinel Island and its buffer zone is strictly restricted under the Protection of Aboriginal Tribe (Regulation) 1956 and Regulations under Indian Forest Act 1927” and “the Ministry of Home Affairs through its recent circulars also restricts movements of foreigners in these areas”.

“This is a wake-up call for the so called ‘foreign adventurists’ to stop entering ‘out of bounds’ and ‘non-permissible’ areas for the sake of encountering ‘exoticism’,” said Professor Anvita Abbi, a veteran linguist who has studied the tribal languages of the Andamans.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are inhabited by six indigenous tribal populations. The Nicobar Islands are home to two ‘Mongoloid’ tribes — the Shompen and Nicobarese.

Of the dozen linguistically distinct tribes who populated the Andaman islands in the early 20th century, only four survive, the Sentinelese, Jarawa, Great Andamanese, and Onge, with a combined population of 400 to 500 individuals.

They are believed to have arrived in the islands from Africa up to 60,000 years ago. The Sentinelese population is placed at a scant and contested 15 according to the 2011 Census of India.

The Andamanese earned a reputation for ferocity due to their violent resistance to foreign intrusions. They remained comparatively isolated from the outside world until the establishment of a British penal settlement in the islands, after the of First War of Independence in 1857.

The British befriended one of the tribes, the Great Andamanese, and employed them as bush police to recapture escaped convicts. The Great Andamanese suffered the brunt of colonialism, and, in the 19th and 20th centuries, their number collapsed from several hundreds to a few dozen individuals.

“Any outsider-contact has brought diseases, subjugation, sexual assault, and ultimately decimation of the tribal culture, tribal life and tribal language. The standing example is Great Andamanese. For years, Jarawas maintained the same isolation and now they regret the interaction with us,” explained Abbi.

The notion of “hostility” is a “colonial construct”, as Kanchan Mukhopadhyay, a former Anthropological Survey of India researcher, who was stationed in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, put it, and is a licence to kill.

Madhumala Chattopadhyay, an anthropologist, was the first one to make a friendly contact during an expedition of the Andaman administration with the Sentinelese in January 1991, also advocates leaving them alone. She was also a part of the second contact expedition of the Andaman administration that made a friendly contact with them in February 1991.

In the aftermath of the Chau affair, Survival International has flayed the Indian government for lapses in protection and for easing the restricted area permit (RAP) to visit 29 inhabited islands, including North Sentinel.

These islands, which were removed from the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963, till December 31, 2022, included the North Sentinel Island.

However, the government had clarified that separate approvals of the competent authority would continue to be required for visiting reserved forests, wildlife sanctuaries and tribal reserves.

The exotic location and the tourism potential of the islands has for long been a topic of discussion and on the central government’s agenda. In June 2017, an Island Development Agency (IDA) headed by India’s home minister was constituted and Indian government’s think tank, NITI Aayog, was mandated to steer the holistic development of Islands programme.

Under this programme, in the first phase, it was decided that 10 Islands in the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep will be taken up for holistic development.

The IDA had reviewed 11 anchor tourism projects of which six are in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. For enhanced connectivity, the airport at Diglipur in Andamans is expected to be made operational for civilian aircraft by December 2018.

In August 2018, NITI Aayog’s Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant, while speaking at an investors’ conference on developing new islands, remarked that Indian government was looking to offer about 100 islands in the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep for tourism purposes. He had also stated that foreign tourists would not need separate permission to visit these islands as the government is focusing on increasing the tourism inflow.

During the same month, India’s home ministry announced that foreign tourists will now be able to visit 29 inhabited islands in the, which were prohibited for visitors, without any restrictions and 11 uninhabited islands (only for day visits).

The decision, the government said, was taken to promote tourism and overall development of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Port Blair, which is capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, on December 30 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first flag hoisting day by Indian revolutionary Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (December 30, 1943) on Indian soil.

It was reported that Modi is expected to announce major projects but it may not happen in the wake of the criticism against opening up of areas in the Andamans after Chau’s death. According to a report, the home ministry may consider reimposing the restricted area permit system in North Sentinel island and other islands.

Sumit Mukherjee, a former Anthropological Survey of India researcher, who specialises in human ecology, questioned whether these tribes need “our kind of development”?

“The ‘development’ planning we have so far done for them since our contact with them (tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago) have sadly resulted in more damage than welfare to their society. So we should agree that we have failed to understand what is effective development for them. They never asked for it,” Mukherjee said.

“What I recommend is we should keep close and careful watch to save every life of those populations and may provide required protective measures and certain carefully prescribed medical services if absolutely required,” Sumit Mukherjee added.

(In arrangement with Mongabay.com, a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed in the article are those of Mongabay.com. Feedback: [email protected])

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88 smartphone brands fight for mere 0.3% market share in India – Tech Trend

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smartphone blue light

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) While the top five smartphone brands currently enjoy a market share exceeding 75 per cent in India, whatever is left is now being shared by over 88 smartphone brands — leaving a mere 0.3 per cent market share for each player.

Players like Panasonic and Videocon are among those 88 smartphone brands sharing the revenue of nearly Rs 43,560 crore — or Rs 475 crore revenue per brand (on average).

On the other hand, Samsung alone posted sales of over Rs 37,000 crore for its mobile phone business in India in the financial year 2018, followed by arch rival Xiaomi at nearly Rs 23,000 crore.

Oppo Mobiles registered nearly Rs 12,000 crore in revenue while Vivo crossed Rs 11,000 crore in the FY 2018.

The big question is: How many of these 88 brands will be able to survive the hyper-competitive and highly price-conscious Indian market?

“As a result of the increased consolidation among the top five smartphone brands, the available potential sphere of play for other smartphone players has significantly decreased,” said Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group (IIG) at the market research firm CyberMedia Research (CMR).

Over the past two years, feature phone to smartphones upgrade has not picked up as anticipated.

“This was primarily due to the spike in refurbished phones/second hand phone market, along with the rapid uptake of 4G feature phones. Coupled with this, the lack of smartphone offerings providing optimal experience under sub-Rs 6,000, is also affecting the upgrades,” Ram told IANS.

Amid massive investment in retail stores, hiring more staff and increasing ad spends as users are spoilt for choices, the pinch would soon affect many of those 88 vendors sooner than later, and most will either shut shops or enter newer businesses.

However, for Chinese brands with deep pockets and a stagnating market back home, India would continue to remain a attractive bet.

“They can afford to bleed, and any profit would be welcome. We believe they would continue to fight in the market,” said Swati Kalia, an analyst at IIG, CMR.

The smartphone market in India grew 14.5 per cent in 2018 with the highest-ever shipments of 142.3 million units, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).

Xiaomi with 28.9 market share shipped 41.1 million units while Samsung with 22.4 per cent market share shipped 31.9 million in FY 2018.

Vivo shipped 14.2 million units with 10 per cent market share while OPPO shipped 10.2 million units and captured 7.2 per cent market share.

In such a scenario, the road ahead only gets tougher for the rest of the players.

“For large consumer-durable conglomerates, including the likes of Panasonic and Videocon, it makes more sense to look at broader synergies available from new blue sky opportunities such as Internet of Things (IoT) and the connected home,” noted Amit Sharma, another Analyst at IIG, CMR.

(Nishant Arora can be reached at [email protected])

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Kashmir insurgency: Need to win hearts and minds

From Syria to Afghanistan/Pakistan to Kashmir, the jehadi mindset is primed among the youth by the mythical Islamic Caliphate’s war against the kafirs (infidels).

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kashmir situation

One of the most disturbing aspects of the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama was that the suicide bomber was a local, Adil Ahmad Dar, who lived in a village near the Jammu-Srinagar highway where the attack took place.

Although indoctrinated as a fidayeen by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, Dar’s act as a jehadi underlines the vulnerability of impressionable Kashmiri youths to insidious anti-India propaganda by Pakistani terror groups nurtured by the Deep State comprising the country’s army and an espionage agency.

In this particular instance, Dar was apparently “inspired” to kill himself by the Taliban’s “victory” signified by American withdrawal from Afghanistan. If anything, the tragedy emphasises the inter-linked international dimensions of Islamic terrorism.

From Syria to Afghanistan/Pakistan to Kashmir, the jehadi mindset is primed among the youth by the mythical Islamic Caliphate’s war against the kafirs (infidels).

Unlike West Asia and even in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Indian democracy provides a safeguard against a Messianic struggle, which is why an overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims, including those in Kashmir, remain committed to the democratic system.

As much is evident from the recent panchayat and municipal elections in the state even if the polling percentages in the Valley were low.

However, it is undeniable that a section of Muslims in the valley continue to remain alienated notwithstanding the government’s attempts to reach out to them via the negotiations carried out by the Centre’s representative, Dineshwar Sharma.

But if his efforts have failed to defuse the situation, the reason perhaps is the government’s reluctance to implement some of the recommendations to improve the conditions made by the Dileep Padgaonkar Committee.

These included reducing the army’s visibility, addressing human rights violations, reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and lifting the Disturbed Areas Act.

In essence, what these initiatives were expected to do was to reach out to the hearts and minds of the ordinary people whose commitment to the Indian state cannot be doubted as the continuing relevance of the mainstream parties like the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party show.

What is required to defang the terrorists and wean away the misguided youth from their self-destructive path is a gesture which will have a major impact.

One of them is to consider freezing the AFSPA (former Congress minister P. Chidambaram wanted it to be scrapped altogether) and to give a cast-iron guarantee that neither Article 370 nor Article 35A will be touched. The former confers a special status on Kashmir and the latter relates to citizenship rights.

It is only such “big ticket” reforms which can end the sense of alienation among the youths who are cynically exploited by Pakistan’s Deep State.

An outreach of this nature will confirm that the government does not regard Kashmir merely as a law and order problem, where all that is needed is a harsh crackdown on the malcontents.

Arguably, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may not find it easy to change its longstanding stance favouring dispensing with Article 370. But it has to be remembered that Atal Behari Vajpayee did put Article 370 in cold storage in 1996 along with his party’s demand for building a Ram temple and introducing a uniform civil code when he was looking for allies to form a government.

Vajpayee had also called for looking at the Kashmir issue within the parameters of insaniyat (humanity) rather than of the Constitution.

Such broadmindedness is the need of the hour to dissuade deluded young men like Dar from the path of nihilism. Otherwise, more and more of such brainwashed youths will leave their kith and kin to court untimely death.

Equally, scores of security personnel will be in danger of losing their lives because official policies have failed to assure the discontented people of a state with a distinct cultural ambience that they are the nation’s cherished citizens.

It is only when the Kashmiris are visibly mollified that Pakistan’s “isolation”, which the Centre is currently seeking, will be complete, for a fully integrated Kashmir will negate Pakistan’s hope of avenging its Bangladesh defeat and recovering the “K” in the country’s name.

India has dealt with rebellious outbreaks in different parts of the country from the Northeast to the Maoist belts in central and western areas with a fair amount of success. There is no reason why it cannot achieve the same in Kashmir with a patient understanding of the grievances affecting the state, especially when it has national-level leaders like Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti with their political and administrative experience.

True, the jehadi factor makes it difficult for a government to adopt a sane attitude because of the irrational pseudo-religious fervour of the militants. But an overt demonstration of being sensitive can enable the government to enlist the overall support of Kashmiri society and enable the elders to rein in the rebels.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Deep State-II: The European angle to Rafale

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Rafale deal scam

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) It is no surprise that Europe becomes a fiery battleground every time a big aerospace deal is floated — as happened when the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition was announced by the Indian Air Force in 2007. The French company Dassault Aviation is to deliver 36 fully-loaded Rafale fighters to India. However, Airbus Industrie, which manufactures the Eurofighter, has pitched itself in the game and wants to have a share of the pie through the ‘Make in India’ programme.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Saab, which manufactures the Gripen and had been an initial favourite before being edged out by the French companies, believes it can still stay in the hunt if it finds an entry through the ‘Make in India’ programme. And then there are the Russians. It is a high-stakes game that is also complicated.

For some, there is also an interest in keeping things complicated. Mahmut Turker, a Turkish-origin former German politician and a member of Germany’s Freedom Democratic Party, has met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other critics of the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi to make out a case for Airbus — he is now its sales director, Combat Aircraft Campaigns.

Turker provided the raw material to prepare Rahul Gandhi for the charge against the Modi government. He first met the Congress President in Hamburg in September last year. Then, in tandem with controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, he helped to prepare the strategy for the attack on the government for the Rafale purchases. Congress leaders evidently believe they are onto something, which is why they have gone beyond characteristic political bluster to directly target the Prime Minister.

Later, when Turker met Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, lawyer Prashant Bhushan — who are behind the PIL in the Rafale case — and Congressman Ranjeet Surjewala, he brought his savvy political skills along to drive holes into the Rafale deal and suggest that it be scrapped. He is believed to have supplied them with dossiers on Rafale to burnish his argument.

There is a back story to this. During the MMRCA negotiations, Airbus/BAE which makes the Eurofighter had lost out to Rafale. The government has said that the earlier deal with Rafale during UPA rule was based on L1 or lowest bidder criterion and the new one for 36 fully-loaded fighters has different specs and there can be no equivalence between them. However, it considers itself to be still in the race for a fighter jet contract, which is why, apart from trying to getting Turker to use the more circuitous route to scupper the deal by providing cue notes to well-placed dissidents, Airbus/BAE sent proposals to the government highlighting why the Rafale deal is bad.

Meanwhile, Turker decided to cast the net wider. He met retired Indian Air Force officials, people with credibility in the system who could help his company, or failing that at least beat down Dassault’s case. He is also believed to have met IAS officer Rajeev Verma, who wrote a dissenting note on the Rafale deal as a member of the contract negotiation committee. There is no evidence that the note helped Airbus/BAE but it certainly did not help Verma. His career took a tumble thereafter.

Could the Congress party be pinning its entire strategy on the basis of inputs from a recently-met aerospace company official and a controversial arms dealer? The game gets bigger, more complicated, as it progresses. Indeed, it mirrors Indian politics where there are no permanent enemies. Enter, the son-in-law of a Modi acolyte who is with BAE.

Using old connections with the Gandhis, this man with deep links in the government has reportedly been able to provide a gist of what the naysayers in officialdom have to say of the Rafale purchase. That has added to the Congress party’s ammo against the government.

Then, the head of a private bank, who is also a key figure in BAE, is working in tandem with a prominent Congress politician in Mumbai. This too is about providing documents and information on the fighter jet deal. For the record, the Congress politician who is known to accompany the Congress President on foreign trips, had earlier been a key figure in an all-party young MPs forum that would meet regularly to identify issues on which they could work together beyond partisan divisions.

The Congress is playing the perception game and believes that the pushback on corruption is happening and the wheels of fortune have altered since 2014.

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