Genocide experts call on India's government to scrap the Great Nicobar mega-project

Shompen band traversing a river on Great Nicobar Island. © Anthropological Survey of India

Dear President Murmu,

We, as scholars with expertise on the crime of genocide, are writing to express our utmost concern that the Indigenous Shompen people of India’s Great Nicobar Island will face genocide if the plan to turn their island into the “Hong Kong of India” goes ahead. 

The Shompen people have lived for hundreds if not thousands of years in harmony with the rich natural world of Great Nicobar Island, largely without contact with outsiders.

Should the government of India’s proposal to create an international container transhipment terminal, associated port and harbour facilities, airport, power plant, defence base, industrial zones, as well as major urban development, proceed, even in a limited form, we believe it will be a death sentence for the Shompen, tantamount to the international crime of genocide.

The cumulative effect of these developments and the proposed demographic shift entailing 650,000 settlers, or an 8,000 per cent increase in population, will ensure the death knell of the Shompen. The result will be a collective psychic breakdown, leading to a devastating decline in the population.

But, even before then, simple contact between the Shompen - who have little to no immunity to infectious outside diseases - and those who come from elsewhere, is certain to result in a precipitous population collapse. The mass death of the entire Shompen tribe will ensue. The only way to avoid the obliteration of the Shompen is for the project to be abandoned. 

We therefore call upon the government of India and all relevant authorities, to urgently cancel all plans for the Great Nicobar mega-project.

Yours sincerely, 

Dr. Mark Levene, Emeritus Fellow, Parkes Centre for Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton

Professor Raz Segal, Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Endowed Professor in the Study of Modern Genocide, Stockton University

Professor Debórah Dwork, Director, Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Dr. Henry Theriault, Founding Co-Editor, Genocide Studies International, and Immediate Past President, International Association of Genocide Scholars

Profesor Adrian Gallagher, Professor of Global Security and Mass Atrocity Prevention, University of Leeds

Professor Elyse Semerdjian, the Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University

Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Executive Director, Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention

Professor Taner Akçam, Director of the Armenian Genocide Research Program, UCLA

Professor Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, University of Delhi

Professor Thomas Kuehne, Strassler Colin Flug Professor of Holocaust History, Clark University

Professor Dirk Moses, Professor of International Relations, City College of New York

Professor Donald Bloxham, Richard Pares Professor of History, University of Edinburgh

Professor Tony Kushner, James Parkes Professor, University of Southampton

Professor Fatma Muge Gocek, Sociology Dept, University of Michigan

Dr. Alex Kay, Associate Professor of War Studies, Department of History, University of Potsdam

Dr. Alexander A. Dunlap, Institute for Global Sustainability, Boston University

Professor Philip Dwyer, Centre for the Study of Violence, University of Newcastle 

Professor Olena Palko, Department of History, University of Basel

Professor Martin Shaw, Emeritus Professor, International Relations, University of Sussex

Dr. Fikret Adanır, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Sabancı, Istanbul

Professor Daniele Conversi Ikerbasque Foundation for Science & Departamento de Historia Contemporánea, University of the Basque Country

Dr. Rachel Ibreck, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr. Omar Shahabudin McDoom, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics, London School of Economics

Dr. Christopher Powell, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Toronto Metropolitan University 

Dr. Raul Carstocea, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Maynooth University

Professor Andrew Woolford, Professor of Sociology and Criminology, University of Manitoba

Professor Damien Short, School of Advanced Study, University of London

Dr. Louise Wise, Lecturer in International Security, University of Sussex

Gheysa Daniele Pereira Moura, Researcher, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Amazonian Cultures (NEICAM/UEA)

Professor Cathie Carmichael, Professor Emerita, School of History, University of East Anglia

Dr. Jeff Bachman, Associate Professor, American University School of International Service

Professor Victoria Sanford, Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College, Doctoral Faculty, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Professor Geoffrey Robinson, Emeritus Professor of History, UCLA

Professor Penny Green FAcSS, Professor of Law and Globalisation, Director, International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Michael Rothberg, Professor of Holocaust Studies, UCLA

Professor Emerita Ann Curthoys, School of History, Australian National University

Dr. Joanne Smith Finley, Reader in Chinese Studies, Newcastle University

Professor Natividad Gutiérrez Chong, Professor of Sociology, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Dr. Christin Pschichholz, Senior Lecturer, Chair of Military History, University of Potsdam


February 2024