Tag Archives: indian

Pipeline fight hangs over White House tribal summit

The Obama administration will soon ask federal agencies to require that treaty rights be considered in decision-making on natural resource projects, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said on Monday, hoping to avoid future conflicts with Native-American tribes such as the current one over the Dakota Access pipeline.

Jewell announced a forthcoming memorandum from President Barack Obama at a Tribal Nations Conference — the eighth and final one he will attend — that began on Monday. Leaders of more than 560 Native American tribes are discussing the environment among other issues as one of the largest Native-American protests in decades continues in North Dakota.

“Your voices are important,” Jewell said in her opening remarks to the tribal leaders’ summit, which included many youth groups. “The president gets this.”

The Interior secretary acknowledged the demonstrations by thousands of Native Americans and environmentalists against the $3.7 billion oil pipeline they say threatens the water supply and sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux. She praised the “the unprecedented solidarity” through weeks of “prayerful and peaceful assembly to make your voices heard.”

She also recognized to wide applause the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault, who has been the face of the demonstrations.

“What we have today is an opportunity to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to live up to those principles of the nation-to-nation relationship,” she said.

The Justice and Interior Departments on Monday announced settlements with 17 tribes that had sued the U.S. government for allegedly mismanaging monetary assets and natural resources that the government held in trust for the tribes.

The “vast majority” of all such disputes have been settled, according to the government, which has paid $1.9 billion to resolve the cases that go back to April 2012.

Obama will address the summit Monday afternoon, though it was not clear if he would discuss the 1,100-mile (1,886-km) Dakota Access pipeline, being developed by Energy Transfer Partners.

He has not publicly commented on the pipeline since the Justice Department, Interior Department and the U.S. Army made a surprise move on Sept. 9 to temporarily block its construction.

At that time, the administration called for “a serious discussion” about how tribes are consulted by the government on decisions over major infrastructure projects.

The uproar over the Dakota Access pipeline has sparked a resurgence in Native-American activism.

The Army, Interior and Justice will hold hearings on the shortcomings of the present process on Oct. 11 and formal discussions with tribes in six U.S. regions from Oct. 25 through Nov. 21.

The deadline for written comments will be Nov. 30, the agencies announced.

On Thursday, Archambault told a House of Representatives panel there was no “meaningful consultation” before permits were issued to bring the pipeline through his tribe’s territory.

Archambault is scheduled to speak on Monday evening at a rally of pipeline opponents.

U.S. court backs Native American families in ACLU suit

A federal court has dealt another blow to defendants in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over the rights of Native American families in South Dakota.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken denied government officials’ motions for reconsideration of his order to them last March to stop violating the rights of Native American parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings.

“Once again the court has ruled that Native American children, their parents, and their tribes are entitled to fair procedures whenever the state seeks to remove children from their homes, as required by federal law,” Stephen Pevar, an attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said in a news release.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Rapid City attorney Dana Hanna on behalf of two South Dakota tribes — the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe — and Native American parents who suffered the loss of their children at the hands of the state.

The lawsuit in part charges that Native American children are being removed from their homes in hearings that lasted as little as 60 seconds, and that parents have no chance to present evidence. Last March, the court agreed with seven of the ACLU’s claims, and ordered the state to:

• Provide parents with adequate notice prior to emergency removal hearings.

• Allow parents to testify at those hearings and present evidence.

• Appoint attorneys to assist parents in these removal  proceedings.

• Allow parents to cross-examine the state’s witnesses in the hearings.

• Require state courts to base their decisions on evidence presented during these hearings.

The court also found that the state violated the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to ensure the security and integrity of Native American tribes and families. Late Friday, Viken issued a ruling rejecting defendants’ motions to reconsider; one final outstanding claim concerns whether the state Department of Social Services is returning Native American children in foster care to their homes as quickly as federal law requires.

The defendants are state Judge Jeff Davis, Pennington County prosecutor Mark Vargo, state director of the Department of Social Services Lynne Valenti and Pennington County DSS employee Luann Van Hunnik.

The lawsuit, Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik, was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota in Rapid City.

Bollywood Oscars taking place … in Tampa Bay?

The so-called Bollywood Oscars have been held in Macau, Singapore, London — and now, Tampa?

Hundreds of Indian film stars and thousands of Bollywood fans have flooded this city for the International Indian Film Academy’s awards extravaganza, four days of song-and-dance performances and movie screenings. The event caps off with the awards ceremony Saturday.

Even though Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls and the 2012 Republican National Convention, its small Indian population makes it an unusual choice for the awards. The event has been held in big cities across the globe as the success of Bollywood has grown, but it’s the first time in its 15-year history that the group has gathered in the United States.

About 800 million people will watch the ceremony on television or the Internet, according to organizers.

Shades of Bollywood are everywhere in the area. The top floor of the Tampa International Airport parking garage was transformed into a reception area for Bollywood bigwigs and autograph-seeking fans. Shahid Kapoor, an actor with 4 million followers on Twitter, arrived to a small crowd at the VIP area earlier this week. He is scheduled to co-host the awards ceremony.

Elsewhere, security was trained on how best to handle enthusiastic fans and service workers were taught how to accommodate Indian visitors (tip: “just because you don’t recognize them, doesn’t mean they aren’t famous”).

Tampa was chosen because city and tourism leaders were aggressive. Sabbas Joseph, the director of the academy and entertainment company Wizcraft International, said Tampa officials even took a few jabs at the competition, telling him: “Orlando mice, Miami Vice and Tampa nice.”

Tourism leaders are thrilled and hope to draw more wealthy Indian tourists to the area. Some 30,000 people are expected. Hollywood superstar Kevin Spacey will teach a master acting class and John Travolta will be honored at the awards show as the “Most Popular All Time International Star In India.”

Santiago Corrada, the president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the area’s tourism arm, said a private donor gave about $9 million to help bring the awards to the area. The county and state provided about $1.1 million to promote the event and market Florida.

The city has shown there’s an appetite for Indian glitter and glam, despite having a small Indian-American population. Cheap seats at Raymond James Stadium, usually where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team plays, start at $93. Pricier options run all the way up to $3,295. Nearly all of 25,000 available tickets have been sold.

The average U.S. moviegoer might not be able to name a Bollywood flick that isn’t called “Slumdog Millionaire,” which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Picture. But that could change, with movies such as “The Lunchbox,” a quiet romance from 2013 set in Mumbai. It won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award at Cannes.

“We want to make people aware of Indian cinema,” said Deepika Padukone, an actor who has more than 5 million followers on Twitter and was named the “world’s sexiest Indian” by the Indian edition of FHM magazine.

That’s not to say Bollywood is struggling. With a population of 1.2 billion people, Bollywood films can quickly become a box office smash based on sheer volume. Plus, labor and marketing costs are cheap compared to U.S. films. The average U.S. flick costs $47.7 million, while the average film in India costs about $1.5 million to make, said Uday Singh, the chairman of the Los Angeles India Film Council.

“Bollywood” is the term for the film industry based in Mumbai (Bombay). Although it is used mostly to refer to the lengthy song-and-dance movies in the Hindi language, it’s become somewhat of a catchall term for Indian films. India is a large country with many different languages, religions and customs, and its films reflect those cultures _ not every movie from India is a Hindi musical.

The Indian industry makes more than four times as many films as Hollywood, Joseph said, and sells 3.6 billion tickets a year. That’s enough movie tickets to get more than half the world’s population inside a theater, and about a quarter of those were sold in North America.

“That was a factor in choosing America for IIFA,” said Joseph. “It’s extremely important to us. It’s where we believe the future lies.”

Landmark ruling for transgender rights in India

India’s top court on April 15 issued a landmark verdict recognizing transgender rights as human rights, saying people can identify themselves as a third gender on official documents.

Also, the Supreme Court directed the federal and state governments to include transgender people in all welfare programs for the poor, including education, health care and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges.

The decision was praised as giving relief to the estimated 3 million Indians who are transgender.

The court noted that it was the right of every human being to choose their gender while granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

“All documents will now have a third category marked ‘transgender. This verdict has come as a great relief for all of us. Today I am proud to be an Indian,” said Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender activist who, along with a legal agency, had petitioned the court.

“The spirit of the (Indian) Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender,” the court said in its order.

The court also ordered the government to put in place public awareness campaigns to lessen the social stigma against transgender people.

Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan told the court that the “recognition of transgender (people) as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue.”

“Transgenders are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights,” he said.

The court ruled that transgender people would have the same right to adopt children as other Indians.

The court said any person who underwent surgery would be entitled to be legally recognized as belonging to the gender of their choice.

The apex court also ordered state governments to construct separate toilets for transgender people and create health departments to take care of medical matters.

Recently, India’s Election Commission for the first time allowed a third gender choice  “other” on voter registration forms. The change was made in time for the national elections being held in phases through May 12.

Some 28,000 voters registered in that category.

Indian activists protest ruling for criminalizing gay sex

Hundreds of gay rights activists gathered in India’s capital and other cities across the country on Sunday to protest a decision by India’s top court to uphold a law that criminalizes gay sex.

India’s Supreme Court last week reversed a landmark 2009 lower court order that had decriminalized gay sex. The country’s gay community is demanding that the government take immediate action to remove the colonial-era law banning same-sex relations.

About 800 protesters in New Delhi, the capital, wore black arm bands Sunday and waved rainbow-colored flags and banners. Some people wore masks and wigs to protect their identity. They said the Supreme Court’s ruling had evoked anger and dismay across the country.

The activists said that they were in the process of taking legal steps to undo the court’s decision and that Sunday’s protest was to make their voices heard.

“It’s my fundamental right to decide who I should love,” said Rohan Mehta, a New Delhi-based businessman who was among the demonstrators. “I will not let the court deprive me of my rights.”

The court ruled Wednesday that only lawmakers could change the law that bans gay sex and makes it punishable by up to a decade in prison.

The ruling dealt a blow to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India’s deeply conservative society.

Similar protests were organized Sunday in several Indian cities, with groups of gay and human rights activists urging a rollback of the court’s decision.