Protests that continue late into the night in the absence of TV crews are often protests that bring down governments. I went to one in Delhi last week. The leaders were dead men – Gandhi and Ambedkar – whose pictures people carried. Middle-class engineers, homeless youth workers, teenage undergraduates, young professionals on their way home from work joined the demonstration. There were no speeches, no microphones; people read the Indian constitution in assembly, and raised their fists and their voices for hours on end. The slogans, after a while, sounded like curses on the government. They called the home minister, Amit Shah, a thief, a murderer. ‘Modi, too, is a murderer,’ they said.
The news came like a declaration of war: Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is gone. It gave the people of Jammu and Kashmir a measure of autonomy: a separate assembly, a separate flag, the exclusive right to residency and property-ownership in the state. On the morning of 5 August, the Indian home minister, Amit Shah, scrapped it. No Kashmiris had been consulted; none of them were informed in advance. No debate or deliberation took place. The next day the Indian Express, a supposedly anti-establishment newspaper, published a giant picture of Narendra Modi congratulating Shah under the headline: ‘History, in one stroke.’
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a union territory of India, are a group of more than five hundred rainforest islands in the Indian Ocean, closer to Bangkok than Calcutta. Some of the first settlers came to the islands in 1858 when the British Indian government built a penal colony to imprison the rebels of the Sepoy Mutiny; another wave arrived in 1947 after Partition. The indigenous people are the descendants of hunter-gatherers who came to the islands about 55,000 years ago. Only four tribes survive on the Andaman Islands, with populations numbered in the dozens or low hundreds. John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old American from Vancouver, Washington, went to North Sentinel Island last month.