The history of the planet is so old that it’s full of blank spaces. There are events about which we don’t know much yet, and areas where accepted theories are being eclipsed by new scientific evidence. For instance, why did the dinosaurs die? What made them vanish 65 million years ago? For decades now (a mere speck of time), the scientific world has been bitterly divided into two groups: those who believe a giant meteorite crashing down—which enveloped the atmosphere with life-killing gases, and caused downpours of acid rain—killed the dinosaurs. The other group believes mass extinction was caused by massive volcanism, a more gradual process (though still the proverbial second in geological terms) spread over some thousands of years. Our cover story (“Trapped in stone”) says that evidence from India—specifically the analysis of lava flows from Deccan volcanism in Andhra Pradesh—suggests that the single impact theory stands on thin ground. Writers G B S N P Varma and Srinath Perur explain how this research was carried out together by Indian and Princeton scientists, and what it means for our understanding of extinction.
Our other reportage is from Tamil Nadu’s Vachathi village, the site of a most brutal excess by the government, where 18 tribal women were raped by public servants 20 years ago. We revisit the village, trace the events of that dreadful day, and find that a court verdict last year which convicted all the accused, was the first bit of justice after a long fight.
Don’t miss our essays on the eurozone crisis, India’s open source software movement, and a poet’s relationship with words. Do read the account of a “crackdown” in Kashmir, the sort of chilling experience that was a part of growing up in the valley.
On another note, photographer Vidura Jang Bahadur who contributed May edition’s photo story on India’s Chinese community has written to us saying that some of the photos published were cropped without his permission, and did not appeal to his aesthetic judgment. Cropping of photos for the purposes of design and layout is an editorial prerogative at Fountain Ink, as it is in newsrooms across the world. Cropping, if done, has to adhere to the journalistic principles of fairness, accuracy and context—none of which was lost in this case. Nor did the photographer mention any particular concerns about cropping while submitting the work. We have strict guidelines for photographers, too: While balancing colour levels and contrast is permissible, other forms of editing like cloning (inserting or removing an object) or flipping are not. We have not accepted submissions that fail these criteria, and in our experience the more heavily edited pictures have come more from art photographers than photojournalists.
This month’s photo essay on the lives of Maharasthra’s tamasha performers is an excellent example of the type of documentary photography which we sorely lack.
Saurav Kumar, Editor