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Couple turns 300 acres of land into India’s first private wildlife sanctuary

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Pamela and Anil Malholtra

Pamela and Anil Malholtra

KARNATAKA India, (Diya TV) — Pamela and Anil Malholtra have spent the past 25 years of their lives buying denuded and abandoned agricultural land in Karnataka’s Kodagu district and reforesting it. Now, the couple has converted a recent purchase of 300 acres of land into what is being widely considered the first private wildlife sanctuary in all of India.

The land sits in Brahmagiri, a mountain range in the Western Ghats. Stretching almost an entire square mile, the land houses the Malhotras’ Save Animals Initiative Sanctuary, a new safe haven for a country with more than 300 types of bird species, and several rare and other threatened and endangered animals. Recently, a herd of 10 elephants was spotted strolling through the sanctuary, but it isn’t all about wildlife, the land itself is the foundation of plant life that is centuries old.

“That tree is about 700 years old and draws different types of birds,” Pamela said, as she proudly showcased one of the largest trees on the property.

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The couple’s crusade to reinvigorate the land to a bio-diverse rainforest for elephants, tigers, leopards, deer, snakes, birds and hundreds of other creatures hasn’t been an easy journey. When the two arrived to this region of the country in 1991, land owners were more concerned about crops and what they could grow, than preservation.

“When I came here with a friend who suggested I buy this land, it was a wasteland of 55 acres. The owner wanted to sell because he couldn’t grow coffee or anything else here,” said Anil. “For me and Pamela, this was what we were looking for all our life.”

They were inspired while visiting India in 1986 for the funeral of Anil’s father — the pollution in Haridwar horrified them.

“There was so much deforestation, the timber lobby was in charge, and the river was polluted. And no one seemed to care. That was when we decided to do something to reclaim the forests in India,” Anil said.

The couple soon realized their goal of obtaining land in north India was a far stretch, so they turned around and went south. Anil’s friends warned him that if he was looking to invest in land for a return, he should look to buy somewhere outside of Brahmagiri. There would be no profit margin to justify his investment, his friends told him.

“We were not looking for money. Early on, we realized that shortage of fresh water will be a concern for India and the rest of the world. Acquisition, protection and reclamation of forested lands and wildlife habitat, where vital water sources have their origin, is the only way to save ourselves,” Anil said.

After the couple sold property they owned in Hawaii, they bought their first 55 acres at the foothills of the Brahmagiri range and began afforestation work. Soon, they realized there was no use nurturing a forest on one side of the stream when landholders on the other side were using pesticides for cultivation. So, at every opportunity, they began buying more and more land along the stream as soon as it became available. “Many of the farmers considered their holdings ‘wasteland,’ as very little grew on it and were happy to get money,” Anil said.

Hurdle after hurdle

Soon after the purchase of the land, the Malholtra’s then began their legal struggles against financiers and the government — several of the land owners they purchased acreage from had standing debt which remained unsettled. If the government wasn’t enough to tackle, they also had to combat poaching and hunting from the locals who lived in the area. Almost immediately labeled as outsiders, many asked “what this couple from the U.S.” was doing in their community.

“A priest of a temple located on a nearby hillock was killed by a tiger and villagers were afraid. We helped them rebuild the temple at a safer location, but our condition was that they’d give up hunting and poaching,” Pamela said. “When they asked us why, we asked them why they worshipped Hanuman and Ganesha but killed animals. It worked,” she said.

Moving forward, the Malholtra’s worked hand-in-hand with the local government and forest department to set up camera traps to keep poachers away. “There are times I have fought poachers with logs,” Pamela said.

Now, the land serves as a studying ground for naturalists and scientists from all over the world who come to observe and research on the different animal species as well as hundreds of indigenous trees and plants, which have medicinal value as well.

Arts

Promising to be the film fest for “woke desis”, NYC SAFF to debut this November

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NYCSAFF Film Line-up

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Promising to be the fest for “contemporary, aware, woke desis”, NYC SAFF is set to make its debut this fall at the Altman building in New York City. After the roaring success of the 5th annual Dallas-Fort Worth South Asian Film Festival (DFW SAFF), JINGO Media presents its second film festival in the United States, the New York City South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF), gearing up to make its debut in mid-November at various venues around Chelsea in Manhattan. The first ever New York South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF) opens with a collection of gut-punches, knee slappers, and laughing gags. Running over 3 days, be sure to bring out your inner cinephile.

Opening the fest is Rohit Karn Batra’s directorial debut Line of Descent a white-knuckled cop thriller starring Brendan Fraser, and Abhay Deol. The story follows a mafia family dispute caught in the crosshairs of a police officer who guides their tragic downfall, and an arms dealer with a spy on the inside. The centerpiece film is the painstakingly painted ‘Bollywood Rose‘ based on true events, it tells the story of a forbidden love in a ruthless city. ‘Kaamyaab‘ which as recently screened at the the Chicago South Asian Film Festival(CSAFF) makes its way into NYC SAFF followed by other festival favorites like Ephemera, Khejdi, and Agency bolstering an already stellar line up. Expect to meet indie stars Tannishtha Chatterjee & Nawazuddin Siddiqui at the closing night film, Roam Rome Mein, a story that follows Reena who has run away to Italy in order to escape her overly strict parents, however, her brother, Raj in the turmoils of his own awakening sets out on a journey to find her.

The short film selection features Eliezer Vergaras ‘Fractured Souls‘; a baffling self revelation that unfolds as one mans frustration leads him into cascading tragedies. Vick Krishnas ‘Freak‘, a father must cope with unexpected news on his daughters surprise birthday. The feature lineup has a cup for everyone be it feature, documentary, fiction, or nonfiction. ‘Namdev Bhau‘ a man so flustered by the noise of Delhi vows to not speak and undertakes a pilgrimage of silence until a young boy decides to tag along. The disturbing Mai Ghat’ is based on the true story of two police officers who wrongly arrest a boy and tortured him to death. Its a powerhouse film exploring the violent act putting to question our personal and social conscience. It wouldn’t be a proper a film festival without films that challenge us and make us question ourselves.

Discussing topics that are too often swept under the rug like LGBT, womens rights and the societal oppression.The Last Letter‘ follows Mohan, a 70-year old gay man who has remained in the closet, that is, until the comfort he built for himself comes tumbling down. The Unexpected tells the story of a woman who despite achieving everything in life cannot conceive a child. Through its range of films, NYCSAFF aims to challenge, entertain, inspire and enrich.

Presented by Toyota and produced by JINGO Media, a NYC and Dallas-based events and public relations company, the inaugural, three-day festival boasts world, U.S. and New York City premieres of more than 25 shorts, documentaries and feature films focused on the unique stories of the South Asian Diaspora and those of our brothers and sisters back home. JINGO Media is also the parent company of DFW SAFF, which was conceptualized and created in 2015. 

“We are so proud to create yet another platform for world-class independent cinema from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the Maldives,” said Jitin Hingorani, CEO/Principal of JINGO Media, a public relations company that launched in New York City in 2010. “We’re coming full circle with this festival because Manhattan is where it all began for us almost 10 years ago. We are certain that the community-at-large will embrace us and celebrate our joyous homecoming.” 

NYC SAFF has also partnered with The India Center Foundation (ICF), a New York City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of the Indian subcontinent, the promotion of its cultural life and the unique relationship between India and the United States. “To partner with NYC SAFF means that ICF is reaching the audience we wish to serve: contemporary, aware, woke desis and lovers of Indian and Diasporic creativity and storytelling. As a filmmaker whose film was so lovingly received at DFW SAFF, I know we are working with a staff who is dedicated and eager to give New Yorkers the film experience they deserve when it comes to screening South Asian cinema. We are looking forward to partnering on great conversations and panels around the films we see together,” said Priya Giri Desai, Founding Director of ICF.

Complete with an opening night red carpet , a curated set of film screenings and a closing night after party, this New York debut of an indie fest, is looking to leave you bruised with heartache, emotional bliss and a belly full of laughter, gasping for more. The first ever New York South Asian Film Festival promises one for the books!

It all goes down from November 15th though the 17th at The Altman Building. With the film screenings occurring throughout the weekend at AMC 34th street 14.

Diya TV is a proud media partner for the event, and will be onsite covering the fest. For tickets and information: https://www.nycsaff.com/tickets

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Basketball

Gandhi 150th birth anniversary noted around the world

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Birth Anniversary

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) —  Celebrations for Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary have been ongoing for the past year, but culminated with a ceremony in New Delhi featuring Prime Minister Modi and another in Washington at the Library of Congress. And France’s government worked with the Indian Embassy there to issue a stamp in honor of his birth anniversary.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal are meeting this week to continue the US-India discussion on trade and investment.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb came to New Delhi to strengthen ties between the Hoosier State and India. Infosys has already made a large commitment there. Holcomb is part of a large delegation of Americans now heading Mumbai to take in the first-ever NBA preseason games in India featuring the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings.

Bollywood turned Hollywood actor Anupam Kher came to the Bay Area to keynote the Akshay Patra annual fundraising gala that helps feed children in India a hot meal during the school year.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Arts

Houston pays tribute to fallen Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal

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Sandeep Dhaliwal

HOUSTON (Diya TV) — Thousands came to honor fallen Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal in a public funeral outside of Houston. The 42 year old father of three was killed during a routine traffic stop last week.

On the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, eleven organizations announced the India Philanthropy Alliance, a collaboration to advance humanitarian and development goals in India, doing so at the second Indiaspora Philanthropy Summit. The organizations collectively raise $125 million annually in donations.

The NBA is in India for the first-time, with the Kings and Pacers holding their first practices in Mumbai. The players and coaches also took time to mentor disadvantaged youth, not to mention budding Indian hoop stars. Diya TV will have full coverage of the NBA India Games, including live commentary and analysis on our social platforms.

And we’ll have highlights from a boisterous Chicago South Asian Film Festival that was proudly sponsored by Diya TV.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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