Indian teenager shoots to fame with portraits of 15 anticolonial leaders drawn at once

Special Indian teenager shoots to fame with portraits of 15 anticolonial leaders drawn at once
Noor Jahan Ansari, 15, at her home in Vijay Nagla village, Badaun district, northern India, on Oct. 30, 2022, with her 15 portraits of Indian anticolonial leaders drawn at once. (AN Photo/Noor Jahan Ansari)
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Updated 07 November 2022

Indian teenager shoots to fame with portraits of 15 anticolonial leaders drawn at once

Indian teenager shoots to fame with portraits of 15 anticolonial leaders drawn at once
  • Video showing Noor Jahan Ansari, 15, at work made rounds on social media last week 
  • Portraits include Mahatma Gandhi, Queen Lakshmi Bai and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

NEW DELHI: When she started preparing to draw at once 15 portraits of India’s most important anti-colonial leaders, Noor Jahan Ansari knew she was up to something big, but the social fame she has since received was not expected.

Last week, the 15-year-old artist from Vijay Nagla village of Badaun district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, released a short clip showing her cast a 15-window wooden frame with 15 pencils onto a big canvas.

As seconds passed in the timelapse video, 15 faces emerged, including the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India, Mahatma Gandhi; Queen Lakshmi Bai, who led India’s first war of independence; Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who led the drafting of the Constitution of India; and the nationalist revolutionary Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

Tens of millions of people have watched the clip as it made the rounds on social media. Prominent industrialist and car manufacturer Anand Mahindra shared the two-minute video on Twitter saying it was a “miracle.”

But the young artist does not see it this way.

“It’s not a miracle but lots of hard work,” she told Arab News.

“There has been constant attention on me from the media and public in general ever since people saw the video on social media.”

Some questioned the credibility of Ansari’s achievement as they doubted the possibility of painting 15 portraits simultaneously in such a short time.

Yet the time was not short. The process shown in the girl’s two-minute video, in reality, took her months.

“The social media video shows me finishing the project in two minutes, but the fact is that I have been practicing it for the last year, and it took me over two months to finish the simultaneous portraits of 15 people,” she said.

“Through practice and effort, I managed to achieve the feat…I want to make India proud through my artwork.”

Known as Noor Jahan Artist in her village, she has been supported by her parents who run a tailoring shop in Vijay Nagla and encourage her to pursue her passion.

The inspiration to create simultaneous portraits came from a video she saw on the internet in which a painter drew five portraits at the same time.

The viral 15 portraits were not her first entry into the art scene, and her skills had already been noticed earlier this year by the India Art Federation, an online organization that gives a platform to budding artists.

“In January this year, I participated in a competition organized by the India Art Federation, which connected me with this platform. Since then, it has been a good journey,” Ansari said.

“The online platform commissions me to do some paintings and I get money for doing that, which helps me support the family and supplements my father’s income.”

Demand for Ansari’s work has jumped since last month.

Jyoti Rawal, co-founder of the India Art Federation, told Arab News the platform has been receiving calls from India and abroad with queries about the price of the 15 simultaneous portraits.

“We are holding back the decision to sell those portraits,” she said, adding that Ansari has broken all records with her video receiving over 38 million views.  

“Noor Jahan has got a path now to follow, and she can choose her way. It’s up to her to grow now. She has a platform where she can shine and excel.”


Finnish, Swedish FMs: NATO membership process hasn’t stopped

Finnish, Swedish FMs: NATO membership process hasn’t stopped
Updated 54 min 35 sec ago

Finnish, Swedish FMs: NATO membership process hasn’t stopped

Finnish, Swedish FMs: NATO membership process hasn’t stopped
  • To admit new countries, NATO requires unanimous approval from its existing members, of which Turkiye is one
  • Hungary and Turkiye are the only countries in the 30-member Western military alliance that haven't signed off on Finland’s and Sweden’s application

HELSINKI: The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland reiterated in separate interviews published Saturday that the process for the two Nordic nations to join NATO is continuing despite Turkiye’s president saying Sweden shouldn’t expect his country to approve its membership.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström acknowledged in an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen that Turkish anger over recent demonstrations and the burning of the Qur’an in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm had complicated Sweden’s NATO accession.
To admit new countries, NATO requires unanimous approval from its existing members, of which Turkiye is one. Despite this, the Swedish government is hopeful of joining NATO this summer, Billström said.
“It goes without saying that we’re looking toward the (NATO) summit in Vilnius,” Lithuania’s capital, in July, Billström told Expressen when asked of the timetable for Sweden’s possible accession.
Hungary and Turkiye are the only countries in the 30-member Western military alliance that haven’t signed off on Finland’s and Sweden’s applications.
While Hungary has pledged to do so in February, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that a planned meeting in Brussels to discuss Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership was postponed.
Such a meeting would have been “meaningless” following the events of last weekend in Stockholm, Cavusoglu said. They included protests by pro-Kurdish groups and the burning of Islam’s holy book outside the Turkish Embassy by a far right Danish politician, Rasmus Paludan.
Expressen quoted Billström on Saturday as saying that the work to get Sweden and Finland into NATO was not on hold.
“The NATO process has not paused. The (Swedish) government continues to implement the memorandum that exists between Sweden, Finland and Turkiye. But it is up to Turkiye to decide when they will ratify,” he said.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto echoed his Swedish counterpart and said the two countries planned to continue making a joint journey toward NATO.
“In my view, the road to NATO hasn’t closed for either country,” Haavisto said in an interview with Finnish public broadcaster YLE.
He said that Ankara’s announcement to defer trilateral talks with Finland, Sweden and Turkiye for now “represents an extension of time from the Turkish side, and that the matter can be revisited after the Turkish elections” set for May 14.
Haavisto said he was hopeful that time frame would allow for Finland and Sweden’s membership to be finalized at the July 11-12 NATO summit in Lithuania.


Spanish police seize 4.5 tons of cocaine off Canaries

Spanish police seize 4.5 tons of cocaine off Canaries
Updated 44 min 52 sec ago

Spanish police seize 4.5 tons of cocaine off Canaries

Spanish police seize 4.5 tons of cocaine off Canaries
  • Cocaine was seized during raid on cattle ship off the Canary Islands earlier this week
  • Police arrested 28 crew members

MADRID: Spanish police announced on Saturday the seizure of 4.5 tons of cocaine aboard a Togolese-flagged cargo ship from Latin America which was intercepted off the Canary Islands.
The “Orion V,” which had been trailed from Colombia and transports cattle from Latin America to the Middle East, had been under surveillance for over two years and had previously been “checked and searched, but no drugs could be found inside, despite the presence of sufficient clues,” police said.
A joint naval and air operation finally made the breakthrough in locating the cocaine, which has an estimated street value of 105 million euros ($114 million), on Tuesday, hidden in a container used to feed the cattle.
The ship had stopped at ports in about a dozen countries before Tuesday’s raid, and police said drug smugglers had started using livestock ships because it was more difficult for police to trace their illicit cargo.
“International organizations are reinventing themselves to transport drugs from Latin America to Europe, using livestock to make the control and localization more difficult,” the Spanish police statement said.
The operation mobilized among others the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Maritime Analysis and Operations Center for narcotics (MAOC-N), the Togolese authorities and the Spanish police.
The 28 crew members from nine countries were arrested.
Officers unloaded dozens of boxes containing the cocaine on the port side in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria. 
The “Orion V” was similar to another Togolese-flagged vessel, the “Blume,” which was intercepted in mid-January in the same area south-east of the Canary Islands, on which the same amount of cocaine was found.
A total of nine tons of drugs have been seized in January, police said in a statement.
Spain’s proximity to North Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with former colonies in Latin America, the world’s main cocaine-producing region, have made it a gateway into Europe for drugs.
(With AFP and Reuters)


After 5 years in no man’s land, last group of Rohingya enters Bangladesh

After 5 years in no man’s land, last group of Rohingya enters Bangladesh
Updated 28 January 2023

After 5 years in no man’s land, last group of Rohingya enters Bangladesh

After 5 years in no man’s land, last group of Rohingya enters Bangladesh
  • When hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Myanmar in 2017, some remained on border with Bangladesh
  • Recent clashes in the area raised security concerns, with Bangladeshi authorities moving to register about 4,000 refugees

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities on Saturday began registering thousands of Rohingya refugees who entered the country after spending the past five years in no man’s land.

Although Bangladesh is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it has hosted and provided humanitarian support to 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017.

A majority of the refugees live in squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar district, a coastal region in the country’s southeast and the world’s largest refugee settlement. But one group settled in no man’s land near the hilly Bandarban district neighboring Myanmar.

After fleeing their country of origin, more than 4,000 members of the group remained in the area, hoping that they would be able to return home. But as the situation in Myanmar failed to improve and Bangladesh in 2019 decided to stop receiving more Rohingyas, they were trapped, living in makeshift tents they raised in the unowned territory.

Earlier this month, most of the shelters were burnt down during armed clashes that triggered security concerns and a decision by Bangladeshi authorities to register the group’s members.

“Our committee has started the verification process for these people who sheltered at the Naikhyangchari border area,” Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mizanur Rahman told Arab News.

The committee comprises representatives of the RRRC, police, intelligence and the Bandarban district administration, who are verifying the identity of the group’s members amid a rise in cross-border crime and drug trafficking.

“We have to identify if there are any criminals or people wanted by law enforcement agencies,” Rahman said.

“Nothing is decided yet about the relocation or shelter of these people. But it’s for sure, there will be no more new camps for these people at their current location. They should be relocated to some other places. But the place is yet to be decided.”

According to Asif Munir, a migration expert and former official of the International Organization for Migration, the Rohingya are most likely to be relocated to Cox’s Bazar or to Bhasan Char — an island in the Bay of Bengal, where Bangladesh has moved 30,000 refugees since December 2020 to take pressure from other, already overcrowded camps.

“It is unprecedented in the world that hundreds of people have been living in no man’s land for more than five years ... these Rohingya were the last batch when the Rohingya exodus began in 2017. They have been living close to the Myanmar border.

“Since they entered Bangladesh territory, considering humanitarian grounds, there is no other option except sheltering them here,” Munir told Arab News.

“Since we have noticed several incidents of clashes between armed groups in the border area in recent times, it would endanger the lives of these people.”


Space startups revolutionize India’s rocket science

Space startups revolutionize India’s rocket science
Updated 28 January 2023

Space startups revolutionize India’s rocket science

Space startups revolutionize India’s rocket science
  • India’s space industry opened the door for private players with a regulatory overhaul in 2020
  • First Indian rocket built by a private company reached outer space in November 2022

NEW DELHI: When the Vikram-S rocket was launched in November, it set a new milestone in India’s space industry — a success for the private players who recently entered a domain that for decades belonged only to the state.

The privately built rocket took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota and reached an apogee of 89.5 km, making its owners, Skyroot Aerospace, the first private Indian company to reach outer space.  

“Beyond the symbolic value of being the first, we are happy to be among the early movers in the private space start-up ecosystem which has started to demonstrate its potential,” Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder of the Hyderabad-based startup, told Arab News.

India opened the door to private companies in the space industry in 2020, with a regulatory overhaul and the formation of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center — a single-window autonomous agency under the government’s Department of Space. Before that, the state-owned Indian Space Research Organization was the sole arbiter of the country’s space programs. 

“Our successful launch has confirmed the domain expertise and leadership capabilities of the Indian space sector,” Chandana said. “We now focus on developing our flagship Vikram I orbital vehicle that we (will) launch in 2023.”

Skyroot Aerospace was founded by Chandana and his partner Bharath Daka in 2018. Both of them spent years working at ISRO. Chandana specializes in the mechanical aspects of rockets, and Daka in avionics — aerospace electronics.  

Skyroot is one of several private companies to have arrived on the scene since the industry opened up. When the Indian Space Association launched in December 2020, it had just five members, but, the association’s director general Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Anil Kumar Bhatt told Arab News, that number has already increased tenfold.
“The private space players’ ecosystem is growing in India ... many new start-ups are coming up,” he said.

India has been in the global space market since the 1960s, but its current share is only 2 percent, worth an estimated $9.6 billion in 2020. The country’s target is to reach $12.8 billion by 2025.

There are currently slightly more than 100 private startups in the Indian space sector and Bhatt estimates that they have, since 2020, received about $240 million from venture capitalists.

Bhatt is confident that India’s presence in the global space sector will increase greatly in the near future.

“Competition will make space exploration cheaper. Disruptive technology introduced by the private players has reduced the cost of launch by nearly one-fifth,” Bhatt said. “In 10 years, we expect (India’s share of the global space market) to reach around 10 percent.”

Dhruva Space, another successful Indian startup from Hyderabad, develops satellite platform structures and subsystems. Its CEO, Sanjay Nekkanti, welcomes the government’s support for the space industry.

“The current government has been very forthcoming in bringing about an interesting revolution where private players experience a level playing field in trying to support not just local requirements but also global requirements too,” he told Arab News.

Dhruva Space launched two radio communication nanosatellites in November, and is readying to launch satellites of up to 40 kg this year.

“As India awaits the Space Act, we will see a tremendous increase in the demand for satellites in the coming years, fueling growth for satellite-enabled services,” Nekkanti said.

“The potential for innovative space applications is immense, especially if established aerospace companies form partnerships with businesses that traditionally haven’t ventured into orbit — for example, pharmaceutical or agricultural companies. Satellites already play a vital role in the communications of everyone’s daily lives, so the imminent growth will enhance this role.”


Moscow says 14 killed in Ukraine strike on eastern hospital

Moscow says 14 killed in Ukraine strike on eastern hospital
Updated 28 January 2023

Moscow says 14 killed in Ukraine strike on eastern hospital

Moscow says 14 killed in Ukraine strike on eastern hospital
  • "The Ukrainian armed forces deliberately attacked the building of a district hospital”, said Russia’s defense ministry in a statement

MOSCOW: Russia’s defense ministry on Saturday accused the Ukrainian army of striking a hospital in the eastern Lugansk region, leaving 14 dead and injuring 24 others.
On Saturday morning in the town of Novoaidar, “the Ukrainian armed forces deliberately attacked the building of a district hospital” with a US-made HIMARS multiple-launch rocket system, the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry added that 14 were killed and 24 wounded among the “hospital patients and medical staff.”
It said that the hospital has been providing “necessary medical assistance to the local population and military personnel for many months.”
“A deliberate missile strike on a known active civilian medical facility is, without doubt, a grave war crime by the Kyiv regime,” the ministry said.