Portfolio of Chinese tech company is approaching value of Softbank’s Vision Fund
The Chinese company has board seats on more than 400 of those companies, according to one person close to Tencent, with 30 per cent to 40 per cent of its investments outside China.
Its investment portfolio is roughly twice as big as its main Chinese rival Alibaba and dwarfs those of US peers such as Facebook and Google and Tencent has no intention of slowing down, even after a record deal spree in 2018.
Tencent’s investment drive is underpinned by a number of factors, said analysts and people close to the company, from building out the company’s social media and payment platforms, to global expansion.
Deals are also in the DNA of its executives. Before joining Tencent, Mr Lau was an M&A banker at Goldman Sachs and James Mitchell, his chief strategy officer, worked as an equity analyst at the US bank.
“When you put a basketball player in the room, you know what they’re going to do,” shrugged one venture capital investor. “If you hire Goldman Sachs bankers, you know what they are going to do.”
Rather than wholesale acquisitions, Tencent prefers to buy minority stakes in companies whose products can bolt on to its WeChat and WeChat Pay platforms. One tech lawyer described the process as “feeding the empire”.
Targets are often receptive: Tencent offers them the chance to reach more than a billion users. To achieve scale, they need either the Shenzhen-based company or its eastern Chinese rival Alibaba, especially in areas such as ecommerce. “It’s almost impossible to succeed in China retail without Alibaba or Tencent,” said James Root, Hong Kong-based partner at Bain & Co.
Tencent has taken high-profile stakes in Tesla, the social media app Snap, the Finnish mobile games maker Supercell, the Indian ride-sharing app Ola, and Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite. One person close to Tencent said the company wants to learn from co-investors such as Google and Walmart.
It also wants to stay on top of any emerging trends, and its investment team is looking at everything from UK fintech companies to South Korean games developers, the person added.
“How is the internet developing? How do we develop knowledge of users? What is driving users’ use? What are the common traits?” said the person.
“Basically, Tencent doesn’t want to miss the clues. It’s so easy to do that and be surprised by something new and radical. TikTok [the Chinese short video app] was a bit of a [wake-up call].”
While investing in the US is conventionally seen as difficult for Chinese companies, because of scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, Europe is more fragmented, has tougher data privacy regulations and fewer large tech targets.
Tencent’s hunting grounds in south-east Asia and India are also becoming more tightly regulated, a worrying development for a company that is looking beyond China because of the cooling support for tech in its home country.
Mr Lau gave a hint of the extent to which investments are powering the $420bn giant when he revealed that the total market capitalisation of companies in which it holds stakes in excess of 5 per cent now exceeds $500bn.
Given its 17-20 per cent stakes in some of its biggest investees, such as food delivery group Meituan Dianping and ecommerce group Pinduoduo, that implies a portfolio value of more than $70bn, according to Bernstein Research — approaching the size of Softbank’s far higher profile Vision Fund.
That has not escaped the notice of critics who view investments as an admission of defeat and proof that Tencent no longer has ambitious dreams. In ecommerce, for example, Tencent acquired stakes in JD.com and other players after failing to launch its own standalone player.
It is a view that was dismissed by Mr Lau: “I personally think that if we want to control everything and want to do everything ourselves, this is not a dream,” he told delegates. “This is a delusion.”
FDI IN CHINA Chinese investment in Europe is nine times greater than in the US. And this staggering difference is heavily influenced by the Trump administration as they tackle China economically, and as Beijing creates tighter capital controls.
China ‘going global’ China’s Going Global strategy of 2000 marked a turning point in outward foreign direct investment (FDI). Prior to this strategy, China promoted inward investments to help grow their economy, and outward flowing investments were very restrictive.
But times have changed, and they seek to become an innovation-driven economy over an investment-driven one.
This strategy has seen a revamp, labeled ‘going global 2.0’ where the focus has shifted from solving resource security and protecting the China model, to stimulating global demand and blending with local operators.
These changes brought an influx in FDI globally, and one point of focus has been the investment in Europe, specifically the peak of investment in 2016 of over EUR 35 billion.
In the beginning, larger economies in the EU were not too concerned about the influx of investment in the EU. But the recent (and rather large) increase in 2016 promoted EU powers to take a second glance at the ulterior motive of China.
The main reason for this skepticism comes as the reciprocity in FDI is lacking.
Investment from China in Europe remains relatively unblocked, but investment in China still contains roadblocks with tight capital control over specific industries meaning that inward investment remains difficult.
It has prompted the EU to take a closer look at these investments and acquisitions starting with a more thorough screening of Chinese investments, and in some cases, putting restrictions. For example, Germany, for the first time, blocked the sale of Leifeld Metal Spinning during the summer of 2018, sending a strong message.
In 2003 France introduced legislation allowing the government to veto FDI deals, with the scope of industries increasing as time has passed. But in Germany and the UK, screening process have only recently been adopted, with the UK focusing on “sensitive” industries.
And as of yet, only a couple handfuls of EU countries have adopted screening processes.
Because of the vast cultural, political and economic difference within the EU, it is difficult to strike a common approach to FDI, especially when it is coming from China.
And it is easy to view the deals in a pessimistic light, as China is constantly vilified in the news for their foreign investments.
The reality is that Europe is in need of investment, and there is a lot of potential for China to invest in European countries. The question is whether both powers will profit?
It could help to level the playing field if China is to take lessons from the developed economies that they are investing in.
To put it into perspective, the two have a strong relationship. The outward Chinese investment into Europe between 2009-2017 totaled approximately €300 billion!
Where are the investments going?
The Made in China (2025) policy has prioritized the development of sectors. The policy has set firm market share goals in software, intelligent manufacturing, and integrated circuits.
This is in an effort to assist in industrial development, but overseas expansion in ICT is proving difficult because of concerns over national security.
For example, the US banned components from Huawei, the Chinese technology company, in U.S. telecom infrastructure in 2012.
Even so, they will continue to acquire technology companies as they dominate the aerospace, robotics, and AI industries.
Investments in EU companies
To understand more, the table below details investments in European companies and startups. It answers questions like: where has the investment come from, who did the investment go to, and how much was invested?
It is evident from the data below that the majority of investments in Europe are being poured into Central Europe. There have been a number of high profile companies that have received investments. For example, Spotify, Aston Martin, and Daimler to name a few.
Pushp Sharma of Operation 136 fame is currently seeking political asylum in the UK.
Pushp Kumar Sharma isn’t an unfamiliar name in the Indian media space. The 48-year-old investigative journalist has reported on many big stories—most of them sting operations. Apart from reporting on political bigwigs such as Amit Shah and Baba Ramdev, Sharma has also reported on the Centre’s Ayush Ministry. In one of his stories last year, he had accusedthe Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) of illegally gathering and harvesting data in a bid to win the 2019 elections.
He also has multiple other cases against him filed by the police and was sent to jail twice. He has been accused of extorting a police officer, of forging evidence—for which he was later given a clean chit by a court—and now, of leaving the country while on bail.
In December 2018, Pushp left for London, where he approached the UK government for political asylum. The journalist says he fears for his life, and that the political vendetta against him is too tough for anyone to take. He has written to the current Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Editors Guild of India, and even the PMO about his plight, but claims to have received no response. Meanwhile, the alleged strong-arming against him and his family hasn’t stopped—not even when he is away.
In October 2012, an Outlook-IBN investigation conducted over several months spilt the beans on the “shoddy investigation” into the disappearance of Baba Ramdev’s guru, Swami Shankardev. The byline on the story was Pushp’s. Soon after the story was published, he was at the receiving end of the wrath of Ramdev’s followers and even had an FIR filed against him by Ramdev’s driver for allegedly threatening him (the driver) over the phone.
In March 2019, seven years after the story was published, a Haridwar court, issued an “impounding of property and non-bailable warrant” against him. Acting on this warrant, police authorities reached his ancestral home in Saharanpur on March 10, 2019.
Speaking with Newslaundry over the phone from the UK, Pushp explains how the timing of the authorities landing up at his ancestral home—just a few months after he left the country—is both uncanny and suspicious.
“I had done a sting operation against Ramdev, which was an IBN and Outlook joint investigation,” says Pushp. “After it aired, Ramdev, through his driver Inder Kumar, conducted a press conference against me to build pressure. He also filed a non-cognisable (NC) complaint against me in Kankhal Police Station.” When asked whether Kumar was a part of the aired sting operation, Pushp says although Kumar was put on camera, there was nothing relevant in what he said, therefore he was not a part of the final package that went on air. “He was very smart so as to not reveal anything.”
He points out how even the FIR filed against him by the Haridwar Police isn’t on valid grounds. “They are saying that I was threatening the driver—who has no recording of this happening—over the phone. If someone is threatening another over the phone and that person doesn’t have a recording of the same, it counts as an NC—you cannot file an FIR based on that. The entire story is actually based on an NC so there is a counter question of how can one file an FIR based on an NC. It was based on this NC the police registered an FIR against me.”
Pushp says he subsequently got bail from the Nainital High Court in the aftermath of his story being published and aired. “Later on, they (police) filed a charge sheet against me in a district court of Uttarakhand.”
Pushp claims a Roshnabad court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him sometime in early March 2019. “Although I have been in the UK since last year, I recently got to know that the police landed at my home in Saharanpur on March 10.” Pushp found out when he called his mother shortly after March 10. The house in question is a large ancestral property built by his grandfather. It houses all his relatives, including Pushp’s mother.
“But it is not under my name; I have no investment there, and that is not the address on my ration card. So how can the police go on to confiscate or compound that property? My mother was crying over the phone because she was scared after the incident happened. She gave me the number of the police official who had come home. His name is Lal Singh, from Kankal Police Station, Haridwar. I called him and he told me that since I have gone absconding, there is an FIR against me.”
Lal Singh told him, “Aap kuch bhi kar lo, PM ka bhi order lao, lekin hum log isko seal karenge (Whatever you do, even if you get the PM’s order we are going to seal this property).”
Pushp says: “He was trying to scare me. He is from UP so he feels like he is a demi-god. He also told me that I had time till March 20, after which he would come and seal the property. But how did they (authorities) even get a hold of this address? More importantly, how can you register an FIR based on an NC? I then intimated my lawyers and they approached a local court in Haridwar and got an order to stay this decision from a link magistrate.”
According to him, his mother went to the court and showed all the relevant documents. With his advocate, she submitted a petition that Pushp had no connection to the property and so asked how it could be confiscated. The link magistrate gave a date of April 10. Meanwhile, the court ordered the Haridwar police to independently verify and file a report as to whether the property belongs to Pushp or not.
When asked whether this was a move to strong-arm and intimidate him into coming back to the country, Pushp says: “The timing is suspicious. I have not been connected with this case (the Baba Ramdev case) since the past seven years, but now suddenly, when I landed in the UK, all this is happening. It is because I am seeking political asylum here which is why they are reopening old cases so that they can say that there are a number of arrest warrants against me. When I was in India, I was facing all my court cases.”
When this correspondent asked Pushp about Ramdev’s driver’s allegation of over-the-phone threats, he said: “I was meeting a number of people. This is a vague charge. What is the point of me threatening him? What will I get out of it? My story was already on air on IBN7 and Outlook. Agar maine kiya hota toh main confess kar leta (I would have confessed had I done it)—I don’t need a recording for that.”
Pushp claims he was tortured on four different occasions in 2018—on June 26, October 9, October 19 and November 25—due to reports he’d done. He finally left India and landed in the UK on December 7. He then applied for political asylum. Although it hasn’t been granted yet, his application hasn’t been wholly rejected. “In 99 per cent of the cases, when you approach the Home Office for asylum, they detain you. But I was not detained. I showed them all relevant documents, magazine clippings, etc., and they’ve told me that prima facie, they believe my story. At the same time, I have been told not to conduct any press conference against the (Indian) government unless a decision is made regarding my asylum status.”
When asked why he exiled himself to the UK, Pushp says: “Ever since my 2016 story about the Ayush Ministry, I was sure that the authorities would come after me. I was arrested, questioned, and later on, even sent to Tihar jail for nine days by the police. They had alleged that I had fabricated the proof on which my story was based on, but my laptop got a clean chit from the FSL lab. After that happened, I thought the trouble would end here.”
But then, on March 25, 2018, the Cobrapost story “Operation 136” broke, in which there was a purported subplot of illegal data mining between Paytm and the PMO’s office. “The person caught on camera is Ajay Shekhar Sharma, VP of Paytm, who is clearly taking the name of one person very clearly,” says Pushp. “That is Bhaskar Khulbe, senior IAS officer…I’m 48 years old and have seen enough of the ugly side of North India, but I miscalculated this one…”
In another incident on June 26, 2018, a local police officer—or someone Pushp initially thought was a police officer—landed up at his home in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. “I stepped out of my house to talk to him once he rang the bell since I don’t let anyone into my house; they can plant anything if they want. So I told him that there are ladies inside and it wouldn’t be right for him to come in.”
A suspicious Pushp asked the officer to accompany him to a small garden at the back of his society where they could sit and talk. “He then introduced himself as an officer from the IB department but did not give me a name. He told me: ‘aap lagatar establishment ke khilaaf ja lage hai, aapka iraadha kya hai? (you are constantly reporting against the establishment, what are your intentions?)’ He told me that all my stories were targeting Modi and Amit Shah and the current government. He asked me to come to meet him in his office.”
Pushp adds: “It has been made to look like I am anti-saffron and anti-establishment. That I am against their (saffron) school of thought. I was given a clean chit by forensics regarding the authenticity of the material that my Ayush Ministry story was based on. In spite of this, I still have the case going on against me by the Delhi Police. I have been charged under Section 153(A)—that I was trying to create grounds and an atmosphere of communal disharmony. One will never be able to defend themselves against such allegations. Who will say whether Pushp Sharma is right or the authorities are right when it comes to such grounds? What kind of proof can be brought in to show that I was creating 153(A)? At the end of the day, this can be arm-twisted by any political party.”
Pushp was sent to Tihar jail twice, once in 2016 after the Ayush Ministry story was published, when he was in jail for a total of nine days, and the other, back in 2009, when he allegedly attempted to extort a police officer of ₹10,000. In fact, he joined Tehelka shortly after his release in 2009. Now, he’s on the run, seeking refuge in a foreign country. Is it wrong for a journalist to let his political stance influence his journalistic work? Maybe, but is that grounds for the Centre to employ strong-arm tactics?
At the end of this conversation, when asked whether he sees himself coming back to India, Pushp takes a long breath and exhales. There is a momentary pause over the phone. “From what I feel now, I don’t have any immediate plans to come back.”
Respect for economic, social, and political rights has declined in India in recent years. We are writing to urge you to adopt human rights protections as a key part of your pledges and manifestos ahead of parliamentary elections in April and May 2019.
Indian voters deserve a substantive debate during the campaign about issues that affect them, particularly with respect to human rights. Now is the time to make a public commitment for reforms that will strengthen India’s human rights record. Set forth below are human rights priorities that candidates and political parties should support.
There are growing restrictions on civil society in India. Numerous activists and lawyers have faced physical attacks and threats by extremist groups. At the same time, police have used allegations ranging from sedition to financial impropriety to crack down on dissent. Laws such as the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) are used to shut down foreign funding for civil society organizations critical of the authorities.
Amend the FCRA so that it does not interfere with basic freedoms of association and assembly and cannot be misused to choke the protected activities of civil society organizations.
Amend the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to ensure that restrictions on organizations respect the right to freedom of association under international law.
Protect Freedom of Expression and Privacy
Laws on sedition, criminal defamation, national security, and counterterrorism have been used to curb the right to freedom of expression, even as incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence through political rhetoric is on the rise.
Human Rights Watch and other international organizations and experts have said that the new proposed Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules threaten privacy, freedom of expression, encryption, and cybersecurity standards.
Repeal sedition, criminal defamation, and other laws that are misused to silence peaceful dissent.
Withdraw the draft amendments proposed to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules.
End Impunity for Security Forces
To uphold rule of law, it is crucial that security forces and police that commit human rights violations are held to account. However, too often, impunity prevails even in egregious cases of torture or extrajudicial killings. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) provides soldiers effective immunity from prosecution for serious human rights abuses. Police reforms remain stalled even as police are accused of torture and extrajudicial killings in several new cases.
Repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and remove legalized immunity granted under the Criminal Procedure Code to security forces.
Implement police reform as recommended by the Supreme Court.
Enact the pending Prevention of Torture Bill, but only after ensuring it conforms with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Protect the Rights of Dalits, Adivasis, and Religious Minorities
There have been growing attacks on religious minorities, particularly Muslims, in India in recent years. In addition, Dalits and Adivasis continue to face discrimination and have been targeted in violent attacks.
Rights groups have raised concerns that registration requirements for the biometric identification project Aadhaar have prevented poor and marginalized people from getting essential services that are constitutionally guaranteed, including food and health care.
Ensure prompt and impartial investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators and instigators of communal attacks and investigate alleged police inaction in responding to vigilante violence, including by so-called cow protection groups.
Ensure that the police are free from political influence and are able to take effective action during communal violence and carry out fair investigations to prosecute perpetrators.
Strictly enforce the anti-manual scavenging law, including against local government officials who engage in caste discrimination in the workplace.
Mechanize sanitation systems and support a professional sanitation workforce that abolishes caste-based practices that impose sanitation-related tasks on Dalits. Establish a monitoring system for all government sanitation programs including the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Stop amendments to the Aadhaar Act that violate the Supreme Court’s directions. Ensure that the law does not exclude the poor and marginalized people from access to essential services.
Protect Refugee and Citizenship Rights
The government has also proposed amendments to citizenship laws that discriminate against Muslims.
Uphold constitutional and international law protections that prevent discrimination based on religion.
Protect the Rights of Women and Children
Six years after the government amended laws and put in place new guidelines and policies aimed at justice for survivors of rape and sexual violence, children and women continue to face barriers to reporting such crimes. Girls and women with disabilities face additional barriers in accessing justice. Medical professionals continue to perform the degrading and discredited “two-finger” test.
Children from socially and economically marginalized communities continue to face discrimination in government schools despite the Right to Education Act, leaving them at further risk of being forced into the worst forms of labor or into early marriage.
Enforce the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 and policies announced to help survivors of sexual violence, including girls and women with disabilities. Ensure regular trainings and refresher courses to sensitize police officers, judicial officials, and medical professionals on the proper handling of cases of sexual violence.
Properly monitor the enforcement of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Encourage all states to adopt and implement the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Guidelines and Protocols for Medico-Legal Care for Survivors/Victims of Sexual Violence.
Fully implement the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013, which prescribes a system for investigating and redressing complaints in the workplace.
Develop clear indicators to improve the detection of and response to discrimination in schools. Implement the Right to Education Act to ensure that all children have access to equal, equitable, and quality education in a child-friendly environment without any kind of discrimination.
Protect Rights of Persons with Disabilities
People with disabilities experience a range of barriers to education, health care, and other basic services, and are at risk of violence and discrimination. People with disabilities are also often deprived of their right to live independently, as many are locked up in institutions.
Take immediate steps to end abusive practices and inhumane conditions in mental hospitals and state and organization-run residential care institutions, including through effective monitoring of such facilities.
Create and implement a time-bound action plan for deinstitutionalization and prevention of further institutionalization for all persons with disabilities, in line with commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Promote Rights Abroad
India has long sought a greater voice in global affairs and campaigned to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. However, it has been unwilling to take the lead in international efforts to curtail rights violations by abusive governments and speaking out for the rights of the oppressed.
Lead and endorse international condemnation of human rights violations.
Promote and assist efforts to improve access to health care, housing, and education, and address the human rights impacts of environmental degradation, poverty, and corruption.
प्रधानमंत्री कार्यालय (मोदी ) एक्सपोज़ हुआ तो मोदी सरकार दिल्ली के एक ब्राह्मण पत्रकार को बरदाश्त नहीं कर पायी – आज इंग्लैंड की सरकार से राजनितिक शरण मांगनी पड़ी –
आर्थिक रूप से कमजोर सवर्णों को नौकरी और शिक्षा में 10 प्रतिशत छल था एक प्रपंच था. ब्राह्मण होना कोई अयोग्यता नहीं है जिस तरह से भारत रत्न की कुछ आलोचनाएँ हो रही है समझ से परे है आखिर कब तक ब्राह्मणों के नाम अपनी सारी असफलताओ को दर्ज करेंगे संसद से लेकर silicon valley तक ब्राह्मणों का डंका इसलिए नहीं बजता कि वे ब्राह्मण हैं बल्कि इसलिए बजता है जब लोग सो रहे होते है तो वो जग रहे होते हैं। भारत में बहुत अरब पति हैं पर गेटस फ़ाउन्डेशन में ब्राह्मण नारायन मूर्ति (इन्फ़ोसिस )ही क्यों ?? जिसने अपनी एक तिहाई से अधिक सम्पत्ति बिना शोर शराबें के दान कर दी उनकी पत्नी आदिवासी समाज के बीच बिना शौचालय के सेवा(यधपि सेवा शब्द अपना अर्थ खो चुका है ) कर रही हैं । मैं बताता हूँ सामाजिक सरोकार व सामाजिक अंतःकरण। जब कुछ लोग पैदा होते ही बच्चों को घृणा का शास्त्र पढ़ाते है कि साँप से पहले ब्राह्मण को मारो तो उसी समय एक ब्राह्मण का बेटा “अनंतो वाँ वेदा” ज्ञान अनंत है पढ़ता है और आलोचनाओं को एक तर्क पद्वति मानता है। आज silicon valley में ब्राह्मण पुरे भारतीयों के दो तिहाई हैं। ब्राह्मण व ब्राह्मण वाद में अंतर है दोनो बिरोधी हैं ब्राह्मणवादी केबल ब्राह्मण नहीं होता हर वह व्यक्ति होता है जो जन्मना व चढ़ावा संस्कृति में विश्वास करता है जो तर्क हीन जड़ हीन विकार युक्त बात करता है ,भले ही कोई दलित की बेटी हो या दौलत की। जब ब्राह्मणों को दूध की मकखी समझा जाएगा तो कभी कभार वो भी दूध फाड़ेगा ही ॰ब्राह्मणों को ब्रह्मणिस्तान नहीं चाहिए ,न ही संसद लोक सभा की सीट वो अपना जगह पिरामिड से लेकर नैनो टेक्नॉलजी तक बना चुका है, किसी समय रूस में ये बात उठी थी धनिकों के हाथ काट लिया जाय कहा गया वो हाथ का नही दिमाग का खाते हैं पर याद रखें कि हिटलर भी गैस चैंबर से यहूदियों को ख़त्म नहीं कर पाया पर एक आइंस्टीन ( यहूदी)का जाना पूरे जर्मनी पर भारी पड़ा आज भी पेंटागन में पचहतर प्रतिशत बैज्ञानिक यहूदी हैं। आप ब्राह्मणों के सारे पुरस्कारों पर रोक लगा दें पर मालवीय अटल लता तेंदुलकर रत्न तो हैं ही क्यों ग़लत है? कुछ लोगों को पुरस्कार दिया नहीं जाता बल्कि पुरस्कार को ही पुरस्कृत किया जाता है। अरे आप समुद्र में भी फेंक देंगे तो भी ये तैरते दिखेंगे“
There are many unknown heroes of the Indian freedom struggle who sacrificed their lives to free our country from the British rule.
One such great son of India was Udham Singh whose only aim in life was to take the revenge of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, which exposed the brutality of British Raj. He fulfilled his aim finally in London when he killed Michael O’Dwyer, former Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, who had approved actions of Brigadier General Dyer for the Jallianwala Bagh carnage.
Udham Singh was born as Sher Singh on 26 December 1899 in a city called Sunam in Punjab’s Sangrur district. His father, Sardar Tehal Singh was a railway crossing watchman. Udham Singh had to face the vicissitudes of life right from the beginning as both his father and mother died when he was just a child. After the death of his father, Udham Singh was admitted to Central Khalsa Orphanage in Amritsar, where he was rechristened Udham Singh and admitted into the Sikh fold. He passed his High School examination in 1918.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
The turning point in his life came when he witnessed the brutality unleashed at Jallianwala Bagh, Amristar where Udham Singh and his mates from the orphanage were serving water to the crowd. About twenty thousand unarmed Indians had assembled there on April 13, 1919 to protest against the arrest and deportation of Dr. Satya Pal, Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew, and a few others under the unpopular Rowlatt Act. However, as the clock ticked 5:15 pm, a group of 90 soldiers armed with rifles entered the park. They were accompanied with two armoured cars on which machine guns were mounted.
Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer was leading the troops. Without giving any warning, he ordered the soldiers to open fire concentrating on the areas where the crowd was thickest to maximise causalities. The ground had only one entry. That too was closed by the soldiers. People tried to climb the walls to escape but were unsuccessful and fell prey to the bullets. Some jumped into the well inside the Bagh to escape bullets.
Bodies lay piled over one another drenched in blood. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands injured. Children cried and old people shrieked as they were unable to comprehend what was happening. Official estimates put the figures at 379 killed (337 men, 41 boys and a six week old baby) and 200 injured, but other reports estimated the deaths well over 1,000 and possibly 1,300. According to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Girdhari Lal, both freedom fighters themselves, the deaths were more than 1,000. The numbers would have been even higher if the armoured vehicles, which were unable to enter the park due to narrow entrance, were put into action.
Later it was known that the massacre occurred with the Lieutenant-Governor Michael O’Dwyer’s full connivance, “to teach the Indians a lesson, to make a wide impression and to strike terror through-out Punjab”.
The brutal incident of Jallianwala Bagh massacre made an indelible impression on the young Udham Singh’s mind as he was witness to the gory incident. He was immensely moved by this event and held Dwyer responsible.
He went to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, bathed in the holy sarovar (pool of nectar) and took pledge that he would avenge and restore India’s honour. He felt humiliated due to the incident.
Revolutionary Udham Singh travels the world, takes up the alias Frank Brazil from Puerto Rico, to seek revenge
The fire to take revenge of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre burned intensely inside Udham Singh. He left the orphanage and wandered from one country to another with only aim of reaching his prey at London. He became a dedicated revolutionary.
His wanderings started in early 1920s with East Africa where he worked as a labourer during the construction of railway lines. After that, he went to USA where he met Ghadar members in San Francisco and had initiations in revolutionary activities. It was here that he developed fondness for using aliases. He used various names like Ude Singh, Sher Singh, Ram Muhammad Singh Azad and even Frank Brazil (adopting a Puerto Rican identity) to dupe the police and intelligence officers.
He lived for five years in various cities of USA including Chicago and New York and traveled to Europe intermittently posing as Frank Brazil. In 1927, he returned to India on a ship where he worked as a carpenter.
He reached his native state Punjab where he was arrested in Amritsar for possession of unlicensed arms on August 30, 1927 and was prosecuted under Section 20 of the Arms Act. As a result, he was sentenced to five years’ of rigorous imprisonment.
After his release from jail on 23 October, 1931, he returned to Sunam, but constant harassment from the local police on account of his revolutionary activities led him back to Amritsar. There he opened a shop as a signboard painter, assuming the name of Mohammed Singh Azad.
For three years, Udham Singh continued his revolutionary activities in Punjab. He visited his native village in 1933, then proceeded to Kashmir on a clandestine revolutionary mission, where he was able to dupe the police and escaped to Germany.
Reaching London in 1934, he took up residence at 9 Adler Street, Commercial Road. According to the secret reports of British Police, Singh was on the move in India till early 1934, he was next reported in Italy where he stayed for 3-4 months. From Italy he proceeded to France, Switzerland and Austria and finally reached England in 1934.
Adept in different professions
Udham Singh tried his hand at various professions in London. He worked as a signboard painter and also as a mechanic. However, the most amazing fact was that he also acted in the movies of that time, albeit as an extra.
He appeared as an extra in Sir Alexander Korda’s (Hungarian born Britisher) movies-Elephant Boy (1937) and Four Feathers (1939). Elephant Boy was based on Rudyard Kipling’s famous Toomai and the Elephants from the Jungle Book. The film ‘Four Feathers’ was adopted from the novel of AEW Mason that was set in Sudan. The name of the films find mention in the book ‘The Amritsar Legacy: From Golden Temple to Caxton Hall’ written by Roger Perkins, which beautifully portrays the life of Udham Singh.
Final Revenge at Caxton Hall
Though Udham Singh tried his hands at various professions, his ultimate objective remained Michael O’Dwyer. The scene of Jallianwala Bagh made him restless and reminded about the vow. He purchased a six-chamber revolver and a load of ammunition. He waited for the right occasion when the killing would have the most impact and spread the news around the world and that unique time arrived in March, 1940.
Caxton Hall of London where Udham Singh shot dead Michael O’ Dwyer. Photo courtesy: shaheedudhamsingh.com
Michael O’Dwyer was going to speak at a programme scheduled at Caxton Hall. It was jointly organised by East India Association and Royal Central Asian Society. Udham Singh managed to enter the Caxton Hall while concealing a revolver in a book specially cut for the purpose.
As the meeting ended people stood up and O’Dwyer moved towards the platform, Singh pulled his revolver and fired two shots. O’Dwyer fell on the ground and died immediately. Then he fired at Lord Zetland, the Secretary of State for India who got injured. Udham Singh did not try to escape and was arrested from the spot.
Udham Singh’s trial started at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, before Justice Atkinson. He was formally charged with the murder of Michael O’Dwyer on April 1, 1940 and the trial started on June 4, 1940. When the Judge asked the reason for killing O’Dwyer, Udham Singh explained his actions in these words, “I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under the British rule. I have protested against this, it was my duty. What a greater honour could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland?”
Judge Atkinson presiding on the case sentenced Udham Singh to death. On 31 July 1940, he was hung to death in the Pentonville Prison, UK and buried within the prison grounds.
The remains of this great martyr were brought back in July, 1974 with the efforts of S Sadhu Singh Thind, an MLA from Sultanpur Lodhi at that time. He asked then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to pressurise British government to give Udham Singh’s remains to India.
Sadhu Singh Thind went to England as a special envoy of the Indian Government and brought back the remains of Udham Singh. He was given a martyr’s reception. Among those who received his casket at Delhi airport were Shankar Dayal Sharma, then president of the Congress Party, and Zail Singh, then chief minister of Punjab who went on to become president of India. Indira Gandhi, the prime minister, also laid a wreath. He was later cremated in his birthplace of Sunam in Punjab and his ashes were immersed in the Ganges.
One room museum at Central Khalsa Orphanage, Amritsar
There is just a one-room museum that has been set up at Central Khalsa Orphanage (CKO) in Amritsar in memory of its illustrious inmate Udham Singh.
A small museum has been set up at Central Khalsa Orphanage housing some of the articles used by Udham Singh. Photo courtesy: Central Khalsa Orphanage.
This single room museum recreates the environment of the period from 1907 to 1918 during which the martyr stayed at the orphanage. It has some of his belongings, which include his own pictures and those of other popular freedom fighters. It is being run by the Chief Khalsa Diwan, the oldest Sikh institution located at:
Central Khalsa Orphanage, Putlighar,
Opposite Central Workshop,
G T Road, Amritsar, Punjab, India
Shaheed Udham Singh Memorial Senior Secondary School is being run by the Orphanage to impart education to children. Photo courtesy: Central Khalsa Orphange.
The orphanage also runs Shaheed Udham Singh Memorial Senior Secondary School named in the honour of the martyr and a Shaheed Udham Singh library.
It is sad that even after passing of 69 years of India’s independence, there is nothing more than a single room museum in the name of the great martyr. Captain Amrinder Singh, Punjab’s Chief Minister on July 31, 2004 had announced that Udham Singh’s house will be converted into a full-fledged museum housing a picture art gallery and his diary and revolver brought back.
Prakash Singh Badal, Akali Dal chief minister of Punjab also made announcement on 31 July, 2008 of making Sunam a model city and redevelopment of ancestral house of Udham Singh. However, only announcements have been made and with no follow-up actions.
Thanks to the efforts of Central Khalsa Orphanage there is a one-room museum in the memory of the great, selfless freedom fighter.
In 2015, on Udham Singh’s 75th death anniversary, the Indian band Ska Vengers released the animated music video “Frank Brazil”, in which details of Singh’s life appear in graphic comic form.
Pitching the new streaming service as a competitor to PlayStation is bound to failure, but there is a market that Google could cultivate and own
Google’s Stadia streaming service is out in the open, and it’s, well, pretty much exactly what you might have expected it to be.
Details are admittedly thin on the ground at this point; aside from what the controller will look like and an admittedly impressive demo of moving gameplay seamlessly between devices, Google’s presentation was far heavier on telling us how great this will be for YouTube than it was on telling us what it’ll actually offer to game consumers or creators. More details — minor things like, say, a business model — will no doubt be forthcoming in the next few months, but thus far Stadia remains essentially a tech demo with the actual service still merely a promise.
Plenty has been written about Stadia, predictably enough, in the days since it was shown off, and much of it has been very well considered and insightful. The broad conclusions of the specialist coverage are that the technology is impressive and some of the features genuinely interesting (alongside the seamless device switching, the ability to turn a game state into a shareable link also looks like a genuinely good innovation), but that Google faces a steep uphill struggle in many other regards.
Many commentators have skirted politely around a conclusion that the giant tech firm doesn’t quite “get” games or their consumers; announcing a new service by focusing so heavily on YouTube rather than on the games themselves felt rather like the tail wagging a dog. Compounded by a sense of “look how great Stadia will be for YouTube” rather than “look how we can leverage YouTube to help Stadia,” the presentation left a flavour not dissimilar to Microsoft’s disastrous television focus at the original launch of the Xbox One.
Nobody wants to dismiss Stadia, of course, nor should they. Google’s track record of entering highly competitive new markets is far from spotless (getting an email reminder to download old pictures from the soon to be deleted Google Plus just a couple of days before the Stadia launch felt a little fateful) but its deep pockets and strong competitive advantage in cloud services is not to be sniffed at. This is a company that could be a major player in the games industry, given the right approach. The real question is what the right approach might be.
We’ve all been assuming, to some extent, that Google is going to make a quixotic charge directly at the market leaders. The presentation of Stadia did little to shift that perception, with bombastic lines like “the future of gaming is not a box,” not to mention the only titles presently associated with the platform being console/PC AAA games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Doom Eternal.
The pitch thus far is that this is a service that will replace your console; you won’t buy a PlayStation 5 because you’ve got access to Stadia. It’s a big claim, especially stacked up against the more moderate pitch both Sony and Microsoft are making for their own cloud streaming services, which are both shaping up (for the time being) as “snack between meal” offerings — something you do alongside and in between sessions on a fully-specced Xbox, PlayStation or PC.
If that’s Google’s pitch, I’ll call it now; short of some kind of dramatic loss-leading subscription pricing (of the kind that destroys industry value in fairly short order and in which no developer or publisher in their right mind should participate), this is going to flop hard. For the vast majority of PC and console gamers, Stadia is going to offer an objectively worse game experience — more latency, worse picture quality — in return for convenience features that few will find all that important. Of course, it’s true that consumers gave up some of the quality of the experience of things like music and movies in return for the convenience of cloud services, but the quality difference was smaller (thanks to the possibility of buffering) and the convenience factor higher (since immediate access to a diverse library is much more important for short-form media than it is for large games).
A large part of the core market are people who have spent the past ten years arguing the toss between 30 and 60 frames-per-second, fanboying over GeForce or Radeon, and counting pixels to see which console is giving a clearer picture in a multiplatform game. I may not personally think that’s a particularly fun or interesting way to think about games as a medium, but I’m damned sure those people aren’t about to give up graphical fidelity and controller latency for the sake of not having to download a few gigabytes before starting a game. The pixel-counting contingent may be small, but the broad sentiment is pervasive; most existing consumers of AAA games are used to buying hardware — note that literally nobody ever suggested that the USP of Netflix should be “you won’t have to spend a few hundred bucks on a nice Blu-Ray player” — and do pay attention to graphical fidelity.
That, however, isn’t the only audience Google could be looking towards, and it’s more interesting to think about the audience that might actually be receptive to Stadia than to come up with more reasons why the existing core market is going to largely ignore it. There are other potentially significant audiences out there for whom buying a console or gaming PC is a major barrier and a service like Stadia could really work. Essentially, you’re looking for the kind of gaming consumer who isn’t engaged enough to buy expensive hardware or invest a lot of time in the hobby, but remains interested in trying out the latest major games or perhaps playing online with friends occasionally.
That’s a not insignificant market; a combination of lapsed gamers who can’t quite justify a PlayStation 4 under the TV any more, casual gamers who have started to develop more core tastes, or perhaps kids without access to the latest hardware but who still want to play recent titles online with friends. It’s a whole lot of different interest groups sitting in a somewhat untapped layer between the casual smartphone gaming market and the core AAA gaming market, and it’s arguably ripe for a service like Stadia.
The challenge is two-fold. Firstly, the business model has to be right; a market of people who are too casually engaged with games to spend money on hardware are going to be incredibly price sensitive, much more so than the core gamers who routinely drop $60 or more on a new game. Secondly, the games have to be right; Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a great game which I’ve personally played for many hours (and I’m sure Doom Eternal will be too), but there’s a reason why smartphone games are so very different to console and PC titles and it’s not just down to the free-to-play model or the touchscreen interface.
The usage scenarios for more casual players are simply different; you or I may be able to sit down for several hours on end to play a game like Assassin’s Creed (though god knows even the most core of gamers starts to lose those opportunities for lengthy play-time as we get older), but the more casual someone gets, the more they’re looking for engagements that fill shorter time periods.
Many, many years ago, when World of Warcraft first launched, one of Blizzard’s major innovations was creating quests around the idea that you should be able to log in and accomplish something in 30 minutes. It was a revolutionary idea in a time when MMOs routinely expected a time commitment of hours. Smartphone games have busted that down to a minute or two. I have uninstalled games on my phone for the cardinal sin of taking more than 30 seconds to get through logo and loading screens on startup, which can eat a not insignificant chunk of my short commute in the morning.
That kind of timing remains an underappreciated and extremely important part of targeting a game to a specific kind of audience. Note that far and away the most successful game to target (intentionally or otherwise) the middle ground between casual and core is Fortnite, which has play sessions that last for about 15 minutes. That’s the kind of interaction model a service like Stadia should be looking at; a game you can click on and launch, play for 15 minutes, and then shut down with the sense that you’ve accomplished something.
This isn’t to say that longer (or shorter) game sessions won’t happen routinely on the service, but the size of the interaction will absolutely need to be shorter and more manageable than for a console game. The aim has to be something that people will think, “Oh, I could do a round of that game on Stadia before bed / before my flight / during my lunch break,” rather than, “I could settle down on the sofa for a couple of hours with this game.”
Thinking about how Stadia could target this “above casual, below core” layer isn’t entirely idle speculation. There is some indication that Google’s nascent games team is being staffed with the kind of people who will understand how to target the platform a bit more intelligently than “what PlayStation does, but on the Internet and worse quality.” Jade Raymond has worked on a mix of console AAA and more casual titles like The Sims in her career, and Phil Harrison was deeply involved in Sony’s various efforts to expand PlayStation’s appeal to broader audiences and more casual consumers.
Moreover, games like Fortnite provide a helpful proof of concept for what could be accomplished here. The success of battle royale titles as free-to-play games supported by a large streaming ecosystem and running on a huge range of platforms including mobile phones is highly suggestive of where a service like Stadia could really make its mark. If that’s where Google goes with this, it stands to become a significant market player — one that likely won’t make the slightest dent in sales of PlayStation, Xbox and gaming PCs, but that could instead grow and develop a whole new market sector alongside them.