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Saving the Shompen tribe – when survival collides with strategy

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A conversation with the noted anthropologist and Andamans expert Vishvajit Pandya on the need to balance heritage, developmental and strategic interests as the Andaman and Nicobar islands become a geopolitical hotspot.

Synopsis:  Join The Straits Times' associate editor and senior Asia columnist Ravi Velloor, as he distils his experience from four decades of covering the continent.

In this episode, Ravi speaks with Prof Visvajit Pandya, an anthropologist who has researched tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar islands for four decades. 

They discuss the fate of the Shompen in Great Nicobar, a tribe of fewer than 600 people whose lives are likely to be upended by plans to build tourism resorts and a transhipment port as well as a naval base on the island. Dr Pandya, who has worked with the Shompen, makes a strong case for including their point of view in developmental plans for their island.

Highlights (click/tap above):

2:12 India’s plans for the Great Nicobar

5:35 ‘Shy Shompens’ under threat

9:20 Strategic significance of the Andaman and Nicobar

13:15 Limited “carrying capacity” of the islands

16:30 Last of the ‘hostiles’ are Sentinelese

18:45 Port is like a ‘bad sewage system’

22:45 A right to make choices

Produced by: Ravi Velloor ( and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Fa’izah Sani

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