Tuesday, September 29, 2009



French Naval Ship (FNS) Somme, a tanker class ship of the French Navy arrived at Port Blair on 22nd September, 2009 on a two-day visit. 


Commander Abhinav Bublic Relations Officer of Andaman and Nicobar Command told UNI today that Rear Admiral Bruno Nielly, ALINDIEN, is also onboard FNS Somme. FNS Somme is the command and control platform for the ALINDIEN, who is the overall Force Commander of French Armed Forces for the Indian Ocean region.


''On arrival here yesterday, the French Naval Ship was given the traditional welcome and the visiting Admiral and Commanding Officer of the French Naval Ship called on Major General AK Chaturvedi, Chief of Staff, Andaman and Nicobar Command. During the visit, ALINDIEN will also call on the Commander-in-Chief,'' Mr. Barve said.

The French Naval delegation interacted with Headquarters Staff of ANC at the Command Headquarters and discussed areas of mutual cooperation. During the day, the officers and crew of the visiting ship were also taken on a guided visit to the historic Ross Island.

Various other events were also planned by ANC for the crew of FNS Somme, including friendly sports activities, visit of naval personnel of both the countries to each other's ships and social interactions.'' The visit of FNS Somme will enhance mutual understanding between the two countries.'' Commander Barve added.

Monday, September 21, 2009



Hi, friends!

Wish you all an exceedingly auspicious and hilarious festival season! Shubh Navratra” and “Eid Mubarak” to all of you the world over!!! 

I have always considered myself an exceptionally fortunate soul to have born at the world renowned pilgrimage, Govardhan, the land of Lord Krishna in the Mathura District of Uttar Pradesh, and to have brought up entirely at Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, the historic land of the revered martyrs of the Indian Freedom Movement, right since the time I was a baby 3 months old. 

And I very proudly swear what a truly peerless and enchanting paradigm of national integration and communal harmony this ‘Mini India of a society has been despite being so agonizingly far off from the Indian mainland. In fact, it’s once again thanks to the diverse penal settlement that came into being following the “British hunt for hell that discovered Andamans”. This uniquely close-knit society is the only and ironically, the most treasured positive face of the barbaric hunt. 

Well, the batches after batches of convicts, revolutionaries and freedom fighters those were deported from the Indian mainland by the British Government of India to these coral Islands where no human being had ever set foot on, included the followers of all the diverse religions and residents of diverse regions from all over the mighty un-partitioned India –

Rare picture showing convicts lined up at the Viper Island 

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Marathas, Pathans, a huge number of mutineer freedom fighters from Bengal, Madras and from the huge Moplah uprising in the state of Travancore-Cochin (Kerala) & so on. The confluence of various cultures, languages, religions, customs and traditions from Maharashtra to Assam and Afghanistan to Kanyakumari wove a unique cultural matrix. 

Hence, right since the dawn of wisdom, I’ve lived in an India true to its rich soul. Our residence at Supply Line, Port Blair was faced auspiciously with the Police Mandir (the temple), the Police Gurudwara (for the Sikhs), and the Police Masjid (the mosque) in a row and about a couple of kilometers from there was a Church at Gol Ghar. 

Police Mosque at Supply Line, behind the historic Clock Tower at Aberdeen Bazaar, Port Blair 

My dear friends, I’m talking about the model India in the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, where Hindus & Sikhs celebrate Eid & Christmas savoring sewaiyaans (vermicelli) & hanging stars at their doors, Muslims & Christians celebrate Diwali & Baisaakhi lighting up diyaas (lamps), bursting crackers and offering prayers at Gurudwaras alike and thus cohabit the quintessential floating paradise sending out the outstandingly inspiring message of “Sarva dharma sambhaav” (communal harmony), national integration and “Vasudhaiiva Kutumbakam” (Universal Brotherhood) to their fellow countrymen in the mainland India and also to the whole world, at large. 

This reminds me of the spell-binding lyrics of a song beautifully articulated way back in the early eighties by Mr. Madan Mohan Sinha Manuj, the former Station Director of Aakashvaani (All India Radio), Port Blair and a bosom friend of my father’s. He says –

“Himshikhar jiska Himalaya hai, phool veni ke usi ke dweep hain ye… Hamaare dweep hain ye” (She (Mother India), whose headdress is snow-crowned with the Himalayas, these Islands are the flowers of her beautifully pleated long hairdo…)J 

A breathtaking view of the Brother Island in South Andaman 

Waah!!!  Kudos to Manuj ji for the lovely touching lyrics!  

Award for the Islanders’ Blog! 

Well, dear friends, this festival season has really started with a bang for me with a major, major pleasant surprise coming from my fellow blogger friend Paritosh who has conferred the coveted ‘Superior Scribbler Award’ on me for the very first time. And you know what? I’m ecstatic!!!


A world of thanks to you, Paritosh, for having scrutinized The Islanders’ Blog and for having conferred the prestigious award on me! I take this as a major responsibility not only to keep deserving this award but also to pass it on to the deserving fellow bloggers. 

Rules of the Award -

  1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to five most deserving blog friends. Check.
  2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award. Check.
  3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog and link to the original post at The Scholastic Scribe which explains The Award. Check.
  4. Each blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit the original post at The Scholastic Scribe and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who wins This Prestigious Honor. Check.
  5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules to his/her blog. Check.

And here’s what Paritosh said -
I would like to give away the awards to:

  • Shrinath Vashishtha : For his tireless blogging about the A&N Islands. His efforts has kept the little known culture and identity of the archipelago on the blog map of India.
  • Mohammed Musthafa : A kid with the wisdom of a hundred year old. Sometimes I envy his writing and creative skills.
  • Shilpa Sharma : For her latest post. For the first time in the history of (wo)mankind a girl has taken up the fight for the boys :D.... Seriously speaking, she has talent and needs to write more.
  • Neeraj Shinde : For his passionate writing. He writes about a bouquet of topics and each of them is so masterly covered.

Well, Paritosh, I’m on my way to finalizing the names of the 5 blogger friends whom I’d like to pass the award on to and would soon complete that. Thanks a ton again!!! Cheers! J

Wednesday, September 16, 2009



India Girding up its Loins

To counter the emergent Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean, the Government of India has planned to turn the Andaman & Nicobar Islands into a formidable military cantonment replete with Indian Air Force and Indian Navy bases.

Fighters aboard INS Virat at Port Blair after Tsunami

As per a meticulous master plan, the proposed Tri-Service Andaman & Nicobar Command will be put into action, as early as, by the end of 2009. If everything goes by the plan, these paradise islands could be India’s most formidable military outpost in about a decade from now.

By 2020, the magnificent coral islands will see a Nuclear Submarine base in South Andaman, a permanent Sukhoi-30 base at Car Nicobar, a permanent Tactical Aerial Recon base at Campbell Bay, a permanent Aircraft Carrier base and expansion of INS Kardip Advance Naval base in Nicobar.

India’s first floating dock at Port Blair

A dedicated 250 MW Nuclear Power Station on the Islands is also proposed to come up on the island territory, which is of great strategic importance for India. The facility will feed the enormous power requirements that the ambitious Island militarization program will ultimately demand.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009



Gluttony of the “Civilized” Renders Jarawas Jeopardized 

Eventually, my dear friends, the misfortune of the aboriginal Jarawas stays… The Calcutta High Court has allowed the construction of a holiday resort near the forest area reserved for the vulnerable Jarawa tribe in South Andaman, Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

The Andaman & Nicobar Administration had appealed against building the celebrity resort being built by the travel company, Barefoot, saying it was within the five-kilometer buffer zone of the Jarawa forest reserve and would jeopardize the aboriginal tribe which has barely 300 odd members surviving.

But the Port Blair bench of the high court upheld the claim of the Chennai-based hospitality group, Barefoot Resorts. The company claimed the buffer zone was never notified by the administration and that it was being targeted pointlessly.

As per the A & N Administration officials, the court’s decision would pave the way for other such tourism ventures near the 700 sq km reserve, as well. How are we to protect the indigenous community if hotels are allowed right next to the tribal reserve? asked S K P Sodhi, the Secretary, Tribal Affairs in the Andaman & Nicobar Administration.

The company spokesperson countered Sodhi, “The aerial distance between the resort and the tribal habitat is 3.2 km; by road it is longer,” he said while adding that there are other establishments too near tribal reserves in the islands, something that I would, personally say, is debatable.

The Barefoot Resorts had acquired the land for the hotel in Collinpur, South Andaman from the villagers. The administration had stayed the construction of the resort in October 2007. A single judge bench of the high court had ruled in favour of the company against which the Administration had filed an appeal before the division bench at Port Blair.

As a matter of fact, the interaction between the Jarawas and the settlers of the villages near the reserve has been going on for over a decade and a half, now, not only in Collinpur, but also in the other stretches of the reserve at Kadamtala (Middle Andaman) & Chainpur (North Andaman). But the permeation of tourists so close to the tribal reserve could pose a serious crisis.


The Jarawas, so far have been alien to alcohol, but after the recent mishap with the Onge tribe of Little Andaman Island, wherein 8 members of the tribe died after consuming alcohol from a container that came ashore floating on the sea, things can be unnerving once the resort comes alive.

A UK-based non-profit, Survival International, meanwhile, had issued a press release condemning Barefoot Resorts for endangering the Jarawas. The hospitality group retaliated by questioning the non-profit’s ethics in using photographs of Jarawas to encourage donations and asked if, prior informed consent of the Jarawas was taken before publishing the photographs.

Well, where do we go from here…?

What direction is the human “RACE” heading in…?? Any ideas…???

Tuesday, September 1, 2009



Dear friends,

The British military doctors had admired the penal settlement unveiled by the French six years earlier on a rocky islet across Guyana. But their Devil’s Island would be far more ambitious. The doctors consulted Hindu texts and decided to create a psychological gulag based around the Hindi term ‘Kaalapani’, an epithet for “Hell”. It literally meant “black water”, but Kaalapani was also a myth, an ancient Indian story that told how the faithful were parted from their souls by crossing the sea. 

The doctors knew that Kaalapani would be feared across the Empire as a godless place, a journey that would strip the transported of their caste, community and creed. 

On December 11, 1857, Doctors Frederick Mouat and George Playfair reached an island chain that they knew was the ideal location. Their search for a seat of revenge against “deserters and rebels” was by now all the more pressing: British Rule was paralyzed by the Indian Mutiny. Three weeks earlier, Sir Colin Campbell had relieved the Residency at Lucknow to find that only 980 Europeans had survived a five-month siege. 

Mouat and Playfair knew, as they surveyed the terrain, that British troops were burying 2000 dead. No one came to these islands, the doctors noted in their logs, but the half-drowned or truly desperate. For nine months a year, the Andaman Islands were caught in the crosswinds of competing monsoons, and they remained uninhabited apart from pockets of “unearthly and ferocious tribes”. A better place to exile the “gigantic evil” of rebellion could not be found. 

On March 10, 1858, Dr. James Patterson Walker arrived at the Andaman Islands with the first batch of 200 “grievous political offenders” sweating in his ship’s hold. Transportation to Australia was outlawed in 1850, but there had been no furore when the doctor’s shipment had got underway from Calcutta eight days earlier.

Rare picture showing convicts unloading a ship at Chatham Island

“The jungle is so dense, and its entanglement by gigantic creepers so complete, as to render it impassable,” Dr. Walker wrote. Into the jungle he dispatched men in chains with orders to build their own shelters on Ross and Chatham islands. From Calcutta and Madras, from Karachi, Singapore and Burma (the present day Myanmar), the ships disgorged yet more prisoners, their crime and punishment carved on to wooden neck tickets, “so sick and debilitated that they cannot be now employed”.

An exotic view of Andamans

So many died on the voyage over, that Dr. Walker asked for another 10,000 to be shipped. From “sunrise to sunset”, Walker wrote in his diary, “I stood uncomplaining”. At the makeshift pier, he greeted new arrivals, “impressing on them the utter hopelessness of all attempts to escape”. And he frightened his charges by reading to them from Marco Polo’s journals an account of the indigenous tribes, dispersed across the 200 or so islands. “Every man not of their own nation,” Walker declaimed, “they can lay their hands on, they kill and eat.” 

Within four days, the newly transported were bolting. Prisoner 61, Narain, sentenced for “having excited sedition in the cantonment at Dinapore”, hanged himself. Another convict, prisoner 46, Naringun Singh, “guilty of desertion at Nuddea”, was the first to set out. He was fished from the black water, hauled up before Dr. Walker and executed on the approval of the medic’s superiors. 

By mid-April, 288 inmates, one third of those who had survived transportation to the islands, were on the run. When, on May 13, 81 of them, “driven by the murderous attacks of the savage aborigines”, limped back into Port Blair pleading for mercy and medicine, Dr. Walker hanged them all in a day. 

News of the summary executions reached Calcutta. JP Grant, President in Council, dashed off a letter deploring the result: “I cannot recognize any of his (Walker’s) considerations as justifying the executions.” But Walker escaped official censure, and on Grant’s orders every inmate capable of escaping was now locked into an iron collar, so that prisoners would never again be able to flee and “excite public attention”. 

The doctor was finally removed from the penal project on October 03, 1859, shortly after he had proposed branding the convicts’ forearms with their crime and sentence. Conditions worsened. Within four years, 3,500 out of 8,000 transportees had been killed or had died of fever, a staggering mortality rate that prompted an investigation. 

When Sir Robert Napier arrived at Port Blair, he found the scene “beyond comprehension”. An “air of depression and despondency” clung to the Andaman Islands. Why did the prisoners have no shelter, clothes or food? Only on Ross Island, where the new superintendent, Colonel RC Tytler, had settled with his wife Harriet, was there a thriving community – a European shop, turf, flowers, shrubs and a fine sandy beach.

A British ship entering the harbour at Port Blair

Eight years later, Lord Mayo, the Viceroy of India, arrived at the Andaman Islands on an inspection tour. As the sun set over Mount Harriet, on February 08, 1872, and the Viceroy descended from the highest point on the island chain, he announced: “This is the loveliest place I think I ever saw. Plenty of room here to settle two million men!” But his vision was instantly cut down. Major General Donald Stewart, the Islands’ superintendent, described the scene at a subsequent inquiry. He heard the cry of “kill, kill” and then a convict “fastened like a tiger on the Viceroy’s back”. Major Byrne, Lord Mayo’s private secretary, reported to the same panel that his superior cried out, “They’ve hit me.” 

The British Government of India concluded that the killer, Sher Ali, had no known motive. They hanged him on March 11. For Irishmen who remembered Lord Mayo’s tenure as their chief secretary, Prisoner 15557 became a martyr, a member of “the warrior dead”. Any hope that the Andaman regime would mellow was throttled. 

Photos courtesy: ancestry.com; Statistics courtesy: Light of Andamans