All Posts By

BrahmaFeed

Wildlife & Biodiversity

China’s wandering elephants become international stars

image: Wild Asian elephants lie on the ground and rest in Jinning district of Kunming, Yunnan province, China June 7, 2021. A herd of 15 wild elephants has trekked hundreds of kilometres after leaving their forest habitat in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, according to local media. Picture taken June 7, 2021 with a drone. | Photo Credit: CHINA DAILY VIA REUTERS.

by AP

Major global media are chronicling the herd’s more than yearlong, 500-kilometre trek from their home in a wildlife reserve in mountainous southwest Yunnan province to the outskirts of the provincial capital of Kunming.

Twitter and YouTube are full of clips of their various antics, particularly those of two calves who slipped into an irrigation ditch and had to be helped out by older members of the group.

“We should be more like the elephant and be more family oriented, take family vacations and help and care for and protect each other,” read one comment on YouTube signed MrDeterministicchaos.

The elephants have been trending for days on China’s Weibo microblogging service with photos of the group sleeping attracting 25,000 posts and 200 million views Monday night.

Wild Asian elephants lie on the ground and rest in Jinning district of Kunming, Yunnan province, China June 7, 2021. A herd of 15 wild elephants has trekked hundreds of kilometres after leaving their forest habitat in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, according to local media. Picture taken June 7, 2021 with a drone.
Wild Asian elephants lie on the ground and rest in Jinning district of Kunming, Yunnan province, China June 7, 2021. A herd of 15 wild elephants has trekked hundreds of kilometres after leaving their forest habitat in Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve, according to local media. Picture taken June 7, 2021 with a drone. |

The 15-member herd has been caught at night trotting down urban streets by security cameras, filmed constantly from the air by more than a dozen drones and followed by those seeking to minimise damage and keep both pachyderms and people out of harm’s way.

They’ve raided farms for food and water, visited a car dealership and even showed up at a retirement home, where they poked their trunks into some of the rooms, prompting one elderly man to hide under his bed.

While no animals or people have been hurt, reports put damage to crops at more than $1 million.

Sixteen animals were originally in the group, but the government says two returned home and a baby was born during the walk. The herd is now composed of six female and three male adults, three juveniles and three calves, according to official reports.

What exactly motivated them to make the epic journey remains a mystery, although they appear to be especially attracted to corn, tropical fruit and other crops that are tasty, plentiful and easy to obtain in the lush tropical region that is home to about 300 of the animals. Others have speculated their leader may be simply lost.

Asian elephants are loyal to their home ranges unless there have been disturbances, loss of resources or development, in which case they may move out, according to Nilanga Jayasinghe, manager for Asian species conservation at the World Wildlife Fund.

“In this case, we don’t really know why they left their home range, but do know that there has been significant habitat loss due to agriculture and conversion of forests into plantations within that range in the last few decades,” Jayasinghe wrote in an email. “What possibly happened here is that in their search for new habitat, they got lost along the way and kept going.”

Authorities have been working to avoid negative interactions and “must determine what the best next steps here are and keep human-elephant conflict at bay,” Jayasinghe wrote.

Kunming is to host the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity’s Convention of Parties to discuss topics such as human-wildlife conflict, and “this is a real-time example of the importance of addressing the issue and its root causes for the benefit of both wildlife and people,” she wrote.

Elephants are given the top level of protection in China, allowing their numbers to steadily increase even as their natural habitat shrinks, and requiring farmers and others to exercise maximum restraint when encountering them. Government orders have told people to stay inside and not to gawk at them or use firecrackers or otherwise attempt to scare them away.

So far, more passive means are being used to keep them out of urban areas, including the parking of trucks and construction equipment to block roads and the use of food drops to lure them away.

As of Tuesday, the herd remained on the outskirts of Kunming, a city of 7 million, with one of the males having moved away on his own, creating even more excitement — and worry — for those attempting to keep tabs on them.

A statement Monday from a provincial command center set up to monitor the group said the elephants appeared to be resting, while more than 410 emergency response personnel and police personnel, scores of vehicles and 14 drones were deployed to monitor them. Area residents were evacuated, temporary traffic control measures implemented, and 2 tons of elephant food put in place.

Another objective was to “maintain silence to create conditions for guiding the elephant group to migrate west and south,” the command center said.

Asian elephants, the continent’s largest land animal, are declining overall, with less than 50,000 left in the wild. Habitat loss and resulting human-wildlife conflict are their biggest threats, along with poaching and population isolation.

Society

Ramachandra Guha: In the lives of three Gandhians, lessons for today’s India – and for the future
lmage: Environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna talks to students during a water conservation awareness programme at a school in Chandigarh in 2008. |
Ajay Verma/Reuters Three remarkable Indians died in a single week in May. All were greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, though each expressed his “Gandhism” in different ways and in different geographical settings. One was in his eighties, the second in his nineties, the third had lived for more than one hundred years on this planet. So while we mourn their deaths we must also celebrate their lives.

The first of these Gandhians to go was Sunderlal Bahuguna of Uttarakhand. When the Chipko movement began in the upper Alaknanda valley in 1973, Bahuguna already had several decades of social work behind him. The initial Chipko protests had been led by Chandi Prasad Bhatt, in Bahuguna’s words the “mukhya sanchalak” (chief organiser) of the movement. Inspired by what women and men had done in the district of Chamoli, Bahuguna brought the idea of Chipko to his own home terrain, the valley of the other great branch of the Ganga, the Bhageerathi. Here he organised protests against the felling of green trees, going on long fasts in the forests.

I first met Sunderlalji in Calcutta in 1981. I was just beginning my doctoral research on Chipko, and he had come to the city to talk on this very subject. He was a captivating, compelling speaker, switching between Hindi and English with ease (doubtless he was even more captivating and compelling in his native Garhwali). Two years later, I did a spell of fieldwork in the Badyar valley, interviewing peasant women who had worked with Bahuguna in a major protest he had led there.

Service and activism
In the course of my research I came to admire both Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Sunderlal Bahuguna. Journalists and academics in Delhi were quick to take sides, promoting one or the other as the “real” or “true” leader of Chipko. In truth, both had played vital roles in the movement. Besides, their orientations were different, but complementary. After the protests of the 1970s had led to a rapid decline in commercial felling in Uttarakhand, Bahuguna took the message of Chipko across the Himalaya.

Bhatt, on the other hand, focused on grass-roots reconstruction within Uttarakhand, mobilising women and students in successfully reforesting hillsides made barren by what one Chipko activist described to me as “andhadhun katai”, the reckless felling of trees by contractors in collusion with the forest department.

Both Bahuguna and Bhatt inspired many younger Indians to take to a life of service and activism.

Matching Sunderlal Bahuguna in energy, courage, intelligence and charisma was a Gandhian who died five days after him. This was HS Doreswamy of Karnataka. He was a decade older than Bahuguna, and thus had an even longer record of service. As a student, Doreswamy met Gandhi when the Mahatma came to Nandi Hills for a spell of rest and recuperation in the summer of 1936. Six years later, Doreswamy played a leading part in the Quit India movement in the princely state of Mysore, spending a long time in jail as a consequence.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Doreswamy worked in the Sarvodaya movement, focusing on land redistribution. However, when the Emergency was promulgated in 1975, he abandoned social work for activism, which resulted in his now being jailed by the government of independent India as he had once been jailed by its feudal and colonial predecessor. He was released after a few months, and spent the rest of his life working for a more humane social order in his home state.

I first met Doreswamy in the late 1980s, when I took part in demonstrations led by him against the environmental destruction of the Western Ghats by the military-industrial complex. Already in his seventies, he was an impressive presence; tall, erect, always ready to lead a procession or go on hunger-fast. Like Sunderlalji, he had a special way with the young, his accessibility and sense of humour drawing them closer to him.

My most recent meeting with HS Doreswamy was in March last year. In the intervening decades I had, of course, followed his work closely. He was verily the conscience of Karnataka, fearless in taking on land sharks, mining companies and, not least, corrupt politicians. Through his eighties and nineties he retained his zest and commitment, raising his voice against social and economic injustice, all the while refusing to take any favours from the state.

He never owned a car, preferring to use public transport. The photographer, K Bhagya Prakash, seeing a 91-year-old Gandhian waiting at a Bengaluru bus stop, stopped to take – unnoticed by the man himself – a series of quite wonderful snaps of Doreswamy boarding a bus, these reposted on Twitter after his death.

The Hindutva threat
For all its other achievements, the Gandhian movement in independent India has never paid adequate attention to the threat posed to the Republic by the rise of Hindutva majoritarianism. (Sunderlal Bahuguna himself sailed quite close to these murky waters, associating with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on occasion.)

In this regard, Doreswamy was a sterling exception. His last campaign, which he undertook at the age of 101, was against the immoral Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Inspired by the exemplary courage shown by students (particularly female students) at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia in the face of police repression, the centenarian Gandhian decided to make a public statement himself. In March 2020, he placed himself under a shamiana in an open space where, along with thousands of other friends and admirers, I went to meet him and hear him speak.

As The Hindu reported, Doreswamy held the CAA to be grossly discriminatory, “antithetical to the founding principles of our nation”. “The Muslims here chose to be Indians,” he said. “They cannot be asked to prove their citizenship now.” Opposing the regime’s discriminatory policies, observed Doreswamy, “doesn’t make me anti-national. We need to differentiate between the government, the state and the nation.”

Both Sunderlal Bahuguna and HS Doreswamy were activists who were entirely comfortable being in the public eye. They were quite happy to express their thoughts if a microphone were placed before them, and fluently and wittily too. Both were also extremely photogenic. Rather different in character and temperament was a Gandhian who died just after Bahuguna and just before Doreswamy. His name was KM Natarajan. Gentle, self-effacing and hence much less well-known than the other two, he admirably embodied the Gandhian spirit in his own home state, Tamil Nadu.

Natarajanji was more a constructive worker than an activist. Inspired by Gandhi as a student, in 1956-’57, he joined Vinoba Bhave on a long padayatra through Tamil Nadu, promoting the Bhoodan movement. Thereupon he dedicated the rest of his life to rural renewal. He worked on, among other things, the abolition of caste distinctions, the promotion of khadi and of organic agriculture, and the redistribution of land owned by temples to landless labourers.

Among his closest associates in these campaigns were that extraordinary couple, Sankaralingam and Krishnammal Jagannathan, and an American in khadi, Ralph Richard Keithahn.

I first got to know KM Natarajan courtesy the Indian postal service. Back in 1996, I had written a newspaper article on the Gandhian economist, JC Kumarappa, which prompted a most instructive mail from a man in Madurai who had worked closely with Kumarappa himself. Many years later, while researching the life of RR Keithahn, I found Natarajan had known him well too. So I travelled to Madurai to seek his advice.

Over cups of tea in the Sarvodaya office in the Gandhi museum complex, Natarajanji told me many things I did not know about Keithahn’s life. Then he sent me off with introductions to people at the Gandhigram Rural University in Dindigul, who had known Keithahn well too.

Boundless generosity
In the course of our conversations I discovered, to my surprise and joy, that Natarajanji had a keen interest in that decidedly un-Gandhian pursuit, the game of cricket. And his generosity was boundless. After I returned to Bengaluru, I received a steady stream of parcels from him containing original letters written by Keithahn, which he had sourced for me from all over Tamil Nadu. His kindness extended to reading drafts of what I wrote on the subject, with my errors gently pointed out.

As I reflect on these three lives, I see what each of them has to teach those of us who still have time left on this earth.

Bahuguna of Uttarakhand taught us that human beings are not separate from or superior to the natural world, that for our own survival we have to respect the rest of creation.

Doreswamy of Karnataka taught us that discrimination according to caste, class, gender or creed is not just antithetical to the ideals of the Indian Constitution, but to decency and humanity itself. To oppose such discrimination, and non-violently, is the duty of all who claim to have freedom and justice as their ideals.

Natarajan of Tamil Nadu taught us that true self-reliance begins with the individual, working with her family and her community, that local action for rural sustainability is as vital to the future of the planet as international agreements on reducing carbon emissions.
Three lives, each admirable, albeit in different and distinct ways. Yet there was a common thread that bound them. Bahuguna, Doreswamy and Natarajan were deeply rooted in their home districts, their home states, while being keenly interested in India and the world. It was a privilege to have known them all.
Ramachandra Guha’s email address is ramachandraguha@yahoo.in.

Environment

World Environment Day 2021: Messages, wishes, slogans, quotes, WhatsApp and Facebook status to share on this day (image : an art by Nishat Rehman (12),Shantipur, Golaghat)

: Every year on June 5 Wold Environment Day 2021 is celebrated to spread awareness among people to conserve the environment for a healthy and better future. This day was created by United Nations in 1974 to create awareness regarding the need to protect our surroundings.

In a wake to go digitalise, we have forgotten that our mother nature is vulnerable to technologies that are harming the environment. It is essential to save and rebuild the relationship with nature, as the environment is made up of every living and non-living beings. Also known as Eco Day or Environment Day, people on this day, organise various events in schools, colleges and offices. The aim to organise exhibition, conference and events is to encourage people to plant more trees and give tips to save the environment. World Environment Day 2021 theme is “Ecosystem Restoration”, and the global host of this campaign will be Pakistan.

As the special day is around the corner, we have brought you some wishes, quotes and messages that you can send to your family and friends just by sitting and home. Also, you can post these on your WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram status to spread mass awareness.

A very Happy World Environment Day to all my friends. Let us protect our environment to make our planet a happier place to live for generations to come.

Let us celebrate the occasion of World Environment Day by working together to save our planet from everything that harms it. Warm wishes on this day.

Start today to save tomorrow. There should be no tomorrow in taking steps to save the earth.

Wishing you a very Happy World Environment Day. Let us be responsible for our environment.

Also Read National Higher Education Day 2021: Why we celebrate Higher Education Day?..
National Higher Education Day 2021: Why we celebrate Higher Education Day?..
Let us give our coming generations a healthier and happier environment to have a beautiful life… Best wishes on World Environment Day.

World Environment Day will keep reminding us of the wrong we did to our environment and the right we need to do to correct it all.

Earth provides us with everything that we need and therefore, we must take care of it with all our efforts. Wishing a very Happy World Environment Day to all.

Let us make it a memorable World Environment Day for our planet by coming together to make our planet a cleaner and greener home for everyone. Warm wishes on this day to all.

Saving the environment means saving a life. Let’s make the world environment day more successful by taking an oath to protect nature. Happy world environment day!

Let us do our small bit to make the world a cleaner and healthier place… Happy World Environment Day.

Deforestation is changing our climate, harming people and the natural world. We must, and can, reverse this trend.

Save the trees our ancestors planted and plant new ones as a gift to our coming generations…. This is the best way to have a greener environment….. Make World Environment Day more successful by planting more trees!!!

Celebrations of World Environment Day come with a promise to save the environment and the world.

Do not pollute water, land, air, and environment because once it is lost, it is lost forever….. Sending warm wishes on World Environment Day with a promise to take care of our environment.

World Environment Day 2021 Quotes

For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realise that, in order to survive, he must protect it. —Jacques-Yves Cousteau

What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another- Mahatma Gandhi

The Earth is what we all have in common. —Wendell Berry

Pleasure is Nature’s test, her sign of approval. When a man is happy, he is in harmony with himself and his environment.- Oscar Wilde

The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations. —John Paul II

I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order. —John Burroughs

Away, away, from men and towns To the wildwood and the downs, To the silent wilderness, Where the soul need not repress its music. —Percy Bysshe Shelley

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. —Frank Lloyd Wright

Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing, that makes it water and nobody knows what that is.- D.H. Lawrence

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children — Native American Proverb

The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for. —Ernest Hemingway

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. —Frank Lloyd Wright

Choose only one master—nature. —Rembrandt

The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens. — Baha’U’Llah

Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. — Gretel Ehrlich

Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral. — John Burroughs

World Environment Day 2021 Messages

Taking care of the environment today will promise us a happier tomorrow. Happy World Environment Day.

We must join hands to save our beautiful planet as there is no other place in the universe so beautiful, so vibrant and so lively. Let us be more responsible. Happy World Environment Day.

On the occasion of World Environment Day, let us pledge to work hard in making Earth a greener and healthier place to live. Let us come together to plant more trees and spread greenery.

We must come together to protect and save our planet in order to make it a healthier and happier place to live for our generations to come. Wishing you a Happy World Environment Day.

Mother Nature has always been kind to us and now it is time to return all the favours by showing a responsible attitude towards the environment. Warm wishes on World Environment Day to you.

Let us save the environment for our generations to come. Happy World Environment Day.

If we don’t protect our environment today, we will repent later. A very Happy World Environment Day.

It is our responsibility to keep our surroundings clean and green and we all must make the best of the efforts to do so, to save our Mother Earth and live happily. Happy World Environment Day.

By caring for the environment, you care for yourself and for your coming generations. Let us be more responsible towards our environment to make it a better place. Happy World Environment Day.

Planting more and more trees is one of the best ways to make the world a healthier place to live and save the environment. On World Environment Day 2021, let us pledge to plant more trees.

World Environment Day will keep reminding us of the wrong we did to our environment and the right we need to do to correct it all.

World Environment Day 2021 Slogans

Harmony with the environment is the need of the hour. With discord, we will soon be left with nothing in our hands.

Never blame the environment but always blame yourself for not taking care of the most precious gift God gave us.

What should be our first priority is sadly the last one….. Always keep the environment before everything else!!!

Let us do our small bit to make the world a cleaner and healthier place… Happy World Environment Day.

Celebrations of World Environment Day come with a promise to save the environment and the world.

If you will pollute water, you can never expect to find clean drinking water. Save the environment and save our planet.

The best that we can do for our coming generations is that save the environment for them.

Let us take a pledge to make our environment healthier and greener on World Environment Day.

The onus of saving our environment is on us and World Environment Day is a reminder.

Those who ignore their surroundings will soon have to face the agitation of Mother Nature…. Let us act and take care of our environment.

We claim Nature to be our Mother but we never take the responsibility of caring for Her.

Posted By: Niharika Sanjeeiv. Jagran Lifestyle Desk

Education

Thousands protest in Hungary against planned Chinese university campus

Thousands of Hungarians, some of them holding banners declaring “treason,” protested on Saturday against a Chinese university’s plans to open a campus in Budapest.

Liberal opponents of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban accuse him of cosying up to the Chinese government, and fear the campus could undercut the quality of higher education and help Beijing increase its influence in Hungary and the European Union.

“I do not agree with our country’s strengthening feudal relationship with China,” Patrik, a 22-year-old student who declined to give his full name, told Reuters at the protest in the Hungarian capital.

He said funds should be used “to improve our own universities instead of building a Chinese one.”

The government signed an agreement with Shanghai-based Fudan University in April to build a campus at a site in Budapest where a dormitory village for Hungarian students had previously been planned.

The Fudan campus is planned for construction at this site in Budapest, Hungary, seen on April 23, 2021.
The Fudan campus is planned for construction at this site in Budapest, Hungary, seen on April 23, 2021.
The government has said Fudan is a world-class institution and the campus would “allow students to learn from the best.”

Hungary’s MTI news agency quoted Tamas Schanda, a deputy government minister, as saying Saturday’s protest was unnecessary. He also dismissed “political hysteria” based on unfounded gossip and media reports.

Opposition politicians and economists have criticized what they say will be the high costs of the project and a lack of transparency.

“Fidesz is selling out wholesale the housing of Hungarian students, and their future, just so it can bring the elite university of China’s dictatorship into the country,” the organizers of Saturday’s protest said on Facebook, referring to Orban’s ruling right-wing party.

Budapest’s mayor, Gergely Karacsony, has publicly opposed the plan. As an act of protest, the mayor announced Wednesday that streets near the planned campus would be renamed after prominent human rights causes sensitive to the Chinese government.

One street will be named after the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, while another will be called “Uyghur Martyrs’ Road” after the mainly Muslim ethnic group that Washington and other capitals say has been victim of a Chinese genocide.

Two other streets will be named in honor of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters and a Catholic bishop who was jailed in China.

Beijing said this week “a few Hungarian politicians” were trying to grab attention and obstruct cooperation between China and Hungary.

“This behavior is contemptible,” said Wang Wenbin, China’s foreign ministry spokesman.

Orban has built cordial ties with China, Russia and other illiberal governments, while locking horns with Western allies by curbing the independence of scientific research, the judiciary and media.

The Hungarian leader was criticized Friday by a senior German diplomat for blocking an EU statement that would have condemned Beijing’s crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong.

“Hungary again blocked an EU statement on Hong Kong. Three weeks ago it was on Middle East. Common foreign and security policy cannot work on the basis of a blocking policy,” German Foreign Office State Secretary Miguel Berger wrote on Twitter.

Orban faces a unified opposition at home for the first time since assuming power in 2010 before a parliamentary election due in 2022.

Economy

NITI Aayog Submits Names Of Public-Sector Banks That Could Be Privatized In Current Fiscal Year: Report
===The NITI Aayog has submitted its final list of the names of the public-sector banks (PSBs) that can be privatized in the current fiscal year as a part of the central government’s disinvestment targets.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had revealed during Budget 2021 that the government intends to privatize two PSBs along with a general insurance company in this financial year.

The names have been submitted to the Core Group of Secretaries on Disinvestment headed by the Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba.

Upon their approval, the names will move ahead to the Alternative Mechanism (AM) for their permission and head towards the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The cabinet’s final nod will be essential for the regulatory side alterations to expedite the privatization process.

Finance Minister Sitharaman has assured that the interests of the employees of the soon-to-be-privatized PSBs will be provided absolute protection as adequate care will be taken about their salaries, scale of pensions etc.

“We need banks which are going to be able to scale up… We want banks that are going to be able to meet the aspirational needs of this country,” she was quoted in a report by Business Standard.

The government has set an ambitious target of raising Rs 1.75 lakh crores by selling stakes in public sector companies. These financial institutions will include the two PSBs mentioned above and a general insurance company.

Democratic Rights

“Every Journalist Entitled To Protection”: Supreme Court On Sedition
Journalist Vinod Dua was charged with sedition in Himachal Pradesh over his criticism of the central government’s handling of Covid, based on a complaint by a BJP
New Delhi: The Supreme Court today cancelled a sedition case against journalist Vinod Dua and said a 1962 order protects every journalist from such charges.
Vinod Dua was charged with sedition in Himachal Pradesh over his criticism of the central government’s handling of Covid, based on a complaint by a BJP leader. He was accused in an FIR of spreading fake news, causing public nuisance, printing defamatory material, and making statements amounting to public mischief.

The senior journalist went to the Supreme Court against the FIR and sought “exemplary damages for harassment”.

While cancelling the case, the Supreme Court rejected Mr Dua’s request that no FIR be registered against any journalist with 10 years’ experience unless cleared by a panel headed by a High Court judge.

This would amount to encroaching on the domain of the legislature, said Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran.

But the Supreme Court, significantly, cited a past judgment to say every journalist is protected from such charges.

“Every journalist will be entitled to the protection under the Kedar Nath Singh judgment on sedition,” said the judges.

The 1962 Supreme Court verdict said “mere strong words used to express disapprobation of the measures of the government with a view to their improvement or alteration by lawful means” is not sedition.

A BJP leader had complained against Mr Dua’s comments against the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi linked to the Covid crisis and the deadly second surge, which left the health infrastructure struggling and raised questions about the government’s policies. The UP Police registered an FIR against The Scroll Executive Editor Supriya Sharma in relation to a report titled “In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during lockdown“.

Wildlife & Biodiversity

Close Encounter in the Wild: Hair-raising Video of a Rhino Chasing Away Tiger in Kaziranga by Niloy Bhattacharjee: For this particular video, Bishwajit Chetry had to patiently wait for half an hour. And then it all happened in a flash. The 25-year- old, who has been working as a tourist guide in the world heritage Kaziranga National Park for the past five years, was accompanying a group of three visitors from Mumbai in early April. Driving a few kilometres inside the Bagori range of the national park, he stopped his vehicle near a small freshwater body.

“There was this rhino, a tall and huge one, drinking water. I could sense something, so I told the tourists that we will go no further and wait near the water till the next movement of the animal. After around thirty minutes or so, the female adult rhino noticed a Royal Bengal tiger a few meters away. The mother rhino had its calf along with it and in such a situation they become very alert and ferocious. It started chasing the tiger. The rhino ensured that the tiger was out of the water. I filmed the entire chase. It was one of the rare, fortunate moments for me and a lifetime experience for the tourists,” says Bishwajit Chetry.

The tiger population in Kaziranga National Park has increased to 111, according to the 2017 census. In 2014, the number was just 83. The sanctuary hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses. According to the census held in March 2018, jointly conducted by the forest department of Assam and some recognized wildlife NGOs, the rhino population in Kaziranga National Park is 2,413. It comprises 1,641 adult rhinos (642 males, 793 females, 206 unsexed), 387 sub-adults (116 males, 149 females, 122 unsexed), and 385 calves.

As India Crosses 22-Crore Mark, Gender Gap in Vaccine Remains Worse Than Countrys Sex Ratio
As India Crosses 22-Crore Mark, Gender Gap in Vaccine Remains Worse Than Country’s Sex Ratio

Kaziranga is a vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests, crisscrossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and the park has numerous small bodies of water.

“When I take tourists, I follow deer calls to locate tigers. This year there have been maximum sightings. Almost all tourists whom I have accompanied have been fortunate to see the Royal Bengal tiger at Kaziranga. Despite four spells of floods, I have possibly seen the Royal Bengal tigers a hundred times this year. The maximum sightings have been in the Kohora Range. You need to be patient to sight a Royal Bengal tiger in its lair,” says Chetry. He has first-hand knowledge of 400 species of birds found in the national park and also runs a jeep safari service for tourists.

According to Bishwajit Chetry, whose father works as a forest guard in the national park, the tiger seen in the video was injured in a territorial fight and had head wounds. It was resting in the waterbody, something tigers normally don’t do for a long duration. They come to drink water and then leave.

Education


The Twitter storm was triggered by a video uploaded by Paras Singh, a 21-year-old YouTuber from Ludhiana, last week.

A week after a YouTuber from Punjab was booked for his purported racial remarks on Arunachal Pradesh MLA Ninong Ering, more than 30 universities and student organisations from the northeast have come together to organise a ‘Twitter storm’ demanding that the history and culture of northeast be made a part of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) curriculum.

Slated for 6-8 pm, June 4, participants at the virtual gathering will tweet with the hashtags #AChapterForNE and #NortheastMatters with an appeal that the region’s “history, ethnicity, lifestyle, personalities, natural resources and patriotism” make up a mandatory chapter in NCERT textbooks.

The Twitter storm was triggered by a video uploaded by Paras Singh, a 21-year-old YouTuber from Ludhiana, last week. In it, he commented on Ering’s appearance saying he did not “look Indian” and claimed that Arunachal Pradesh was not a part of India, but in China, causing widespread outrage in Arunachal Pradesh and Northeast. On Tuesday, Paras was booked under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc), 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for “inciting ill will and hatred” against the people of Arunachal Pradesh. He was remanded to six days of judicial custody by an Arunachal Pradesh court.

“We believe that this kind of racism can be solved only through education,” said Debonil Baruah, Advisor, North East Students’ Union (NESU), Vadodara, one of the organisers of the Twitter storm. “The Paras Singh case was what set it off, but such instances of racism are very common,” he added.

|Arunachal court remands Punjab YouTuber to six days in jail in racial slur case
After the NESU Vadodara reached out to universities across the eight Northeastern states, more than 30 major universities such as Guwahati University, Dibrugarh University, Nagaland University, Mizoram University, NIT- Agartala, Rajiv Gandhi University Arunachal Pradesh as well students unions in Delhi, Manipur etc, have come on board to participate.

“We think the Twitter storm will help bring the issue to the notice of politicians and lawmakers,” said Tarh Naki, a 24-year-old student from Arunachal Pradesh. “When I studied in Gujarat, people were clueless about where Arunachal was. They would directly ask me which country I belonged to — ‘Are you from China?’ Sometimes I felt like putting a banner on my head saying I am from Arunachal Pradesh and it is in India,” she said.

The plan is to tag Chief Ministers, Education Ministers and other concerned authorities to bring it to their notice, Baruah said. A few politicians such as K Therie, former Finance Minister of Nagaland, MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu from Nagaland as well as Arunachal Pradesh’s Ering have tweeted their support for the storm. “Inclusion of our culture and history must be done in the curriculum. Had introduced a Bill on the same issue in 2017 in Lok Sabha” tweeted Ering, tagging the handles of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, CBSE and NCERT, among others.

In 2017, Ering had introduced a Private Member Bill ‘The Compulsory teaching of North-East culture in Educational Institutions’ in the Parliament but it was not taken up.

In 2014, following the attack and murder of 19-year-old Nido Tania in Delhi, the M P Bezbaruah Committee report had made a number of recommendations, including integration of Northeastern culture and history in the NCERT syllabus.

“While there have been discussions on including Northeast-related matter in textbooks, it has never really worked out,” said Baruah. While in 2017, the NCERT did publish ‘North East India — People, History and Culture’, a supplementary text book for students from Class 9 to 12, Baruah said it really did not have any impact because it was only suggested as “supplementary reading”. “So no one took it seriously. What we need now is a chapter which is a compulsory part of the syllabus so that it can bridge the gap between the northeastern states and ‘mainland’ India,” he said. (Source: Express news)

Human Rights

The politics and history behind France seeking ‘forgiveness’ from Rwanda for 1994 genocide
France’s partial admission of guilt is seen as part of an effort to mend ties with its former colonies and sphere of influence in Africa, where many still have painful memories of their subjugation, and continue to see French actions with suspicion.

Skulls of some of those who were slaughtered as they sought refuge in the church sit in a glass case next to photographs of some of them, kept as a memorial to the thousands who were killed in and around the Catholic church during the 1994 genocide, inside the church in Ntarama, Rwanda. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday acknowledged his country’s “overwhelming responsibility” in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but stopped short of a clear public apology.

“France has a role, a story and a political responsibility to Rwanda. She has a duty: to face history head-on and recognise the suffering she has inflicted on the Rwandan people by too long valuing silence over the examination of the truth,” Macron said in a speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the remains of 2.5 lakh victims of the genocide are interred.

“Standing here today, with humility and respect, by your side, I have come to recognise our responsibilities”.

The remarks were welcomed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame – a fierce critic of France ever since the genocide– who called them “more valuable than an apology” and “an act of tremendous courage”.

France’s partial admission of guilt is seen as part of an effort to mend ties with its former colonies and sphere of influence in Africa,
many still have painful memories of their subjugation, and continue to see French actions with suspicion.

What has Macron said?

In an address that is expected to go a long way in repairing long-fraught relations with Rwanda, Macron went much further than his predecessors in admitting France’s role in the genocide, saying, “Only those who went through that night can perhaps forgive, and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness.”

“France did not understand that, while trying to prevent a regional conflict, or a civil war, it was in fact standing by the side of a genocidal regime,” Macron said, “By doing so, it endorsed an overwhelming responsibility”.

In what appeared to be an explanation for not delivering a clear apology, the French leader said, “A genocide cannot be excused, one lives with it”. He did, however, promised efforts to bring genocide suspects to justice.

The Rwandan genocide

The Rwandan genocide of April-July 1994 was the culmination of long-running ethnic tensions between the minority Tutsi community, who had controlled power since colonial rule by Germany and Belgium, and the majority Hutu. Over the course of 100 days, the tragedy took the lives of over 8 lakh people, estimated to amount up to 20% of Rwanda’s population.

Hutu militias systematically targeted the Tutsi ethnic group, and used the nation’s public broadcaster, Rwanda Radio, for spreading propaganda. Military and political leaders encouraged sexual violence as a means of warfare, leading to around 5 lakh women and children being raped, sexually mutilated or murdered. Some 20 lakh fled the country.

The conflict ended when the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front seized control of the country in July, and its leader Paul Kagame assumed power. Kagame, who has led Rwanda ever since, has been credited for bringing stability and development to the mineral-rich nation, but blamed for cultivating an environment of fear for his political opponents both at home and abroad.

What role did France play during these events?

During the genocide, Western powers including the United States were blamed for their inaction which abetted the atrocities. France, which was then led by Socialist President François Mitterrand, gained notoriety after being accused of acting as a staunch ally of the Hutu-led government that ordered the killings.

In June 1994, France deployed a much-delayed UN-backed military force in southwest Rwanda called Operation Turquoise– which was able to save some people, but was accused of sheltering some of the genocide’s perpetrators. Kagame’s RPF opposed the French mission.

How did France and Rwanda get along after the conflict?

Bilateral relations nosedived after the genocide, as leaders in Rwanda as well as elsewhere in Africa were infuriated by the role of France. Kagame drew his country – whose official language had been French ever since Belgian rule – away from France, and brought it closer to the US, China and the Middle East. Kagame also broke off relations with France at one point.

In 2009, Rwanda also joined the Commonwealth of Nations, despite having no historical relations with the UK. Interestingly, even as Kagame praised Macron’s remarks on Thursday, he did so in English and not French.

In 2010, conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy became the first head of state to visit Rwanda since the genocide, but relations continued to deteriorate despite Sarkozy admitting to “serious mistakes” and a “form of blindness” by the French government during the blood-soaked turmoil.

What changed under Macron?

Macron has presented himself as part of a new generation that is willing to revisit the painful parts of France’s legacy as a colonial power in Africa and of later supporting ruthless dictators in the post-colonial period.

During his election campaign in 2017, Macron had called the French colonisation of Algeria a “crime against humanity” and the country’s actions “genuinely barbaric”. In March this year, Macron admitted that French soldiers tortured and killed the Algerian lawyer and freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel, whose death in 1957 had been covered up as a suicide.

To counter allegations of paternalism in French-speaking Africa, Macron has also sought to engage with English-speaking countries of the continent. Sure enough, even on his current visit to Africa, Macron is going to English-speaking South Africa immediately after Rwanda.

So, what led to a thaw in France-Rwanda relations?

In March and April this year, two reports came out examining France’s role in the conflict. The first report, which was commissioned by Macron, gave a scathing account of French actions during the genocide, accusing the then-French government of being “blind” to preparations by the Hutu militia, and said that the European power bore “serious and overwhelming” responsibility, according to France24. The report, however, did not find proof of France being complicit in the killings.

The Macron government accepted the findings of the report, marking a game-changer in France-Rwanda relations. Kagame visited France last week, and said that the report enabled the two countries to have “a good relationship”. Before Macron’s reciprocal visit to Rwanda this week, the two sides spoke of a “normalisation” of relations.

What have been the reactions to Macron’s admission?

While Macron did speak of “forgiveness”, some were dismayed by France not delivering a clear apology on the lines of Belgium, whose Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in 2000 publicly apologised for failing to prevent the genocide, or the United Nations, whose Secretary-General Kofi Annan did the same in 1999.

Still, Rwandan President Kagame welcomed Macron’s remarks, saying, “His words were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth”.

Macron’s stopping short of a full apology is being interpreted as an attempt to not rile up conservatives back home in France, who see French actions in Africa over the years as a relatively benign influence. Less than a year remains until the 2021 presidential race, when Macron is expected to face the ultra-right Marine Le Pen, who was also his opponent in the last election.

The French President, however, will face a considerably more formidable challenge walking the tightrope in March next year, barely a month before the polls, when Algeria, a prized former colony, will celebrate 60 years of independence. In January this year, Macron said that there would be “no repentance nor apologies” but “symbolic acts”, yet many are expecting matters to get heated over the polarising topic.