Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
Manipur violence: The latest update
The context: The army has been called in to restore order in the northeastern state— which has exploded with ethnic violence between the tribes in the hills and the Meitei community in Imphal valley. Over the past week, hundreds of houses, churches, templates and vehicles have either been vandalised or set ablaze across five districts. The government imposed a curfew, shut down the internet and issued shoot-at-sight orders. Friday’s Big Story has all the history and context you need.
What happened now: The official death toll has risen to 55—and 23,000 civilians have been evacuated by the 10,000 soldiers deployed to restore order. The violence was sparked by a High Court order directing the government to grant tribal status to the Meitei. Now, a number of pleas—including one filed by a BJP MLA—have challenged the order in the Supreme Court.
Some of them have flagged anti-tribal violence—which they claim has spread outside the state: “The assaults have also spread to Delhi where the Kukis in Delhi are also coming under attack by the dominant community. Similar attacks are also taking place in Meghalaya.” A bench led by Chief Justice Chandrachud will hear the petitions on May 8. (The Hindu)
Wrestling’s #MeToo protests: The latest update
The context: Top Indian wrestlers such as Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik have alleged there is widespread sexual abuse in the sport. And it starts at the top—with wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh—who is also a BJP MP. They have refused to call off their protest until action is taken against him. For details on the sexual abuse, see our Big Story.
What happened now: The Supreme Court refused to hear pleas submitted by the wrestlers—and directed them to approach the High Court. But the Jantar Mantar protests have gathered strength—attracting the support of student unions, women’s groups—and most significantly farmer unions. Members of khap panchayats and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha—which led the anti-farm law protests—arrived in Delhi to show solidarity. Its leaders issued a May 21 deadline to arrest Brij Bhushan—failing which they will escalate their protests. The Telegraph and Indian Express have more details. Scroll reports on young women athletes in villages—who are rethinking their ambitions due to the protests.
The Covid emergency is officially over
The WHO has declared an end to the global emergency caused by Covid. The reason:
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic has been “on a downward trend for more than a year, with population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection.” That, he said, has allowed most countries “to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19,” meaning that the worst part of the pandemic is over.
It doesn’t mean much to the average person, but it signals the end of extraordinary national and international efforts to combat the pandemic. We all still have to be careful about new variants, but the days of social distancing are long gone. (Associated Press)
Some BMWs are hazardous to health
The luxury carmaker has recalled 90,0000 vehicles—issuing a ‘do not drive’ warning to their owners. The reason: these models are fitted with airbags made by the Japanese company Takata—which can explode if they are deployed after long-term exposure to high heat and humidity. The models affected: 2000-2006 BMW 3 Series (E46) including M3, the 2000-2003 5 Series (E39) including M5, and the 2000-2004 X5s (E53), and BMW 1 series, X1, X3, X5 and X6 models made in certain years. At least 34 brands have issued a recall because of these airbags. (Bloomberg News, paywall, Mint)
VC funding spirals down
Investment of venture capital into Indian startups has declined 60% in April—compared to the same period last year—falling from $2.4 billion to $971 million. The April numbers also represent a 31% drop from March—indicating a downward spiral. Point to note: a handful of late-stage startups attracted the highest amount—$566 million. Early stage startups sealed the most deals—but with smaller cheques. (YourStory)
Unusual brain activity during death
A recent study looked at four comatose patients who had been removed from ventilator support. Two of them showed an increase in heart rate along with a surge of gamma wave activity—which is associated with consciousness. It was recorded in a part of the brain associated with dreaming, visual hallucinations in epilepsy, and altered states of consciousness. The lead author said:
How vivid experience can emerge from a dysfunctional brain during the process of dying is a neuroscientific paradox. We saw potential neuro-signatures of consciousness.
However, scientists have no clue as to what this increased activity indicates: “It may be activating internal covert consciousness, bringing out memories of the past, it could be a brain survival mechanism, we don’t know.” (The Guardian)
Two things to see
One: Here’s something to make Tolkein fans happy. Scientists have named the genus of two new butterfly species after Sauron. Saurona triangula and Saurona aurigera have distinct markings of vivid orange and jet black—reminiscent of the evil lord’s all-seeing eye: “The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.” Happily, these small beauties spread joy rather than terror. (The Guardian)
Two: Producer Guneet Mongia shot into the spotlight when she landed an Oscar for her documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’. So expectations are high for her next production—‘Kathal’—a satire that follows a female cop on the hunt for jackfruit stolen from an MLA’s residence. The film drops on Netflix on May 19. (Economic Times)