NEWS INDIA TIMES
n North Sentinel Island, a spit of coral and rock in India's far-flung Andaman and Nicobar Islands, lives one of the planet's most iso- lated groups of people. They are a tribe of hunter-gatherers known as the Sentinelese, a name given to thembe- cause no one has any clue what they call themselves. Nor does anyone know how many of them there are; the best guesses put their population at fewer than 100. This tiny community is now at the center of global attention thanks to a 26-year-old Americanmissionary named John Allen Chau. Chau traveled to the island this month, hoping to convert the Sentinelese to Christi- anity. They killed him instead. Chau's story illustrated how hard it is to keepmodern society frompenetrating any corner of the Earth - even the ones that want nothing to do with it. The Sentinelese - believed to be direct de- scendants of a migration fromAfrica some 50,000 years ago - have historically been hos- tile to visitors, and for good reason. Encoun- ters with outsiders, especially under the aegis of 19th-century British colonial authorities, decimated the aboriginal populations of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Like somany other indigenous peoples during the age of European empires, the tribes of the islands were unprepared for foreign diseases and vulnerable to the explorers who saw them as specimens of primeval man - subjects for zo- ological study, not human compassion. In the 1970s, a National Geographic film director who approached North Sentinel Is- land with a teamwas hit in the leg by an arrow. In 2006, twomarooned Indian fisher- men were killed there, their bodies reportedly propped up on the beach in a lurid display. Sporadic "gift-giving" missions carried out by anthropologists stopped taking place by the 1990s, with academics and authorities con- vinced the Sentinelese were better off left alone. The tribe, along with a handful of other aboriginal communities in the archipelago, lives beyond the pale of the Indian state, which has outlawed visits to the island to preserve its inhabitants' isolation. But none of this was about to deter Chau. He paid local fishermen to help him evade Indian Navy patrols, then, once close enough, paddled to the island in a kayak and attempted tomake contact. According to a diary he kept, Chau sang devotional songs and proffered gifts of scissors, fish and a soc- cer ball to the people he saw. In response, at least one person shot an arrow that punc- tured the American's waterproof copy of the Bible. "Lord, is this island Satan's last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?" he wrote in the diary, which was provided toTheWashington Post by his mother. The morning after Chau's last trip to the island, the fishermen who conveyed him to North Sentinel saw his body being dragged around a beach and buried in the sand. In- dian authorities arrested five of the fisher- men for helping Chaumake the illegal and fatal journey, and they now are puzzling over what to do about retrieving his remains. At- tempting contact is a fraught endeavor that could lead to further violence and expose the Sentinelese to outside contagion. A police team that approached the island on Friday reportedly saw a number of the Sentinelese standing watch, bows at the ready. "We don't have any plan to go on the land or do any kind of confrontation," said De- pendra Pathak, the police chief for the An- daman and Nicobar Islands, toThe Post's Joanna Slater over the weekend. "We have to move with utmost sensitivity and care." The incident involving Chau had "to create a good amount of stress" among the Sentine- lese, Pathak toldThe Post. In eras past, stories of martyrdomhelped spread Christianity through certain parts of Asia. But Chau's demise has mostly inspired outrage, with critics in India and elsewhere riled by the selfish foolhardiness of his mis- sion. "The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected," said Stephen Corry, the director of indigenous- rights group Survival International, in a state- ment. "The British colonial occupation of the Andaman Islands decimated the tribes living there, wiping out thousands of tribespeople, and only a fraction of the original population now survive. So the Sentinelese fear of out- siders is very understandable." There is certainly far more sympathy for the plight of populations like the Sentinelese than there was in the past, but indigenous communities like theirs are hardly any safer than before. Inmany places, the perils posed by climate change and the resource demands of developing countries have only deepened the vulnerability of isolated tribes. In Brazil, far-right President-elect Jair Bol- sonaro has vowed to scrap the country's in- digenous affairs department in a bid to boost the expansion of agribusiness and logging companies. "If I become president, there will not be one centimeter more of indigenous land," he once declared. Brazil's Amazon re- gion is home to roughly 100 "uncontacted" tribes - more than any other country on Earth - and activists are nowwarning of a new "genocide" should Bolsonaro follow through on his promises. Inmany cases, though, indigenous com- munities are undermined not by faraway po- litical fiat, but by the pressure of a world inexorably closing around them. T.N. Pandit, an Indian anthropologist who spent decades studying the aboriginal peo- ples of the Andamans, lamented the effects outside exposure has had on them. In an in- terviewwith the NewYork Times last year, he pointed to the steady depletion of the Jarawa tribe, neighbors to the Sentinelese, after ex- tended contact with outsiders. -T HE W ASHINGTON P OST News India Times December 7, 2018 4 Opinion O T here is never a good time to lose your job, but to be handed a layoff notice at the holiday season is as painful as it gets. That is unfortunately just what some 14,200 North American employees of Gen- eral Motors - 8,000 in white-collar jobs and about 6,200 factory workers - received on their first day back from the Thanksgiving weekend. There is angst in factory towns and, in theWhite House, anger. "They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly," President DonaldTrump thun- dered, referring to the Chevrolet factory that GMplans to shut in the politically pivotal state of Ohio. GM, he added, is "playing around with the wrong person." Displaying his penchant for strong-arming the private sector, Trump threatened, vaguely, to cut off GM's federal subsidies for electric vehicles. GM's downsizing has to be embarrassing toTrump because it debunks the promises of abundant new auto jobs that helped him get elected and that he has continued tomake since taking office. InWarren, Michigan, site of one of the targeted transmission plants, Trump told an October 2016 rally, "You won't lose one plant, I promise you that." GM's an- nouncement is a reminder that the presi- dency does not include the power to tell businesses where to invest or whom to hire. Indeed, one factor in GM's cutbacks is the rising costs it faces because of Trump's signa- ture blunt-force economic policy, tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Though his language was the crudest, Trump was hardly the only politician bashing GM for the layoffs. Ohio's two senators, Sher- rod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican, did so, too, as did Canadian Prime Minister JustinTrudeau, whose coun- try will also see a plant close. The American politicians branded GM an ingrate, guilty of repaying the $49.5 billion bailout that res- cued the firm in 2009 with "corporate greed," as Brown put it. The truth of the matter is that General Motors long ago exited bankruptcy and the government sold its last shares almost five years ago. The point of that exercise was to restructure the company, then set it free again tomake its own decisions under new management. Monday's announcement by CEOMary Barra, painful as it was to those af- fected, is entirely consistent with that gov- ernment intervention, not a betrayal of it. Alas for the affected workers, the plants where they work build decreasingly popular models, including the Chevy Cruze at that Lordstown, Ohio, factory. Passenger cars such as the Cruze account for just 30 percent of all new-car sales in the United States; crossovers, SUVs and pickups account for the rest. Ms. Barra's plan, which the com- pany says will save $6 billion over the next two years, is a rational attempt tomeet these newmarket realities. If it succeeds, the com- pany will be able to expand and, possibly, create more jobs, and it will be less likely to need another bailout in the future - which is the outcome everyone, from theWhite House on down, should be rooting for. -T HE W ASHINGTON P OST GM's LayoffsArePainful, But ItsNew Plan IsNot ABetrayal Published weekly, Founded in 1975. The views expressed on the opinion pages are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of News IndiaTimes. 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