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Father of Modernism: Rabindranath Tagore’s 75th Death Anniversary

Rabindranath's cosmic views owed much to the lyric tradition of Vaishnava Hinduism and its notions about the relationship between man and God

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Portrait of Rabindranath Tagore. Image source: Wikimedia
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” Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”

For people who love his works, have guessed it by now! The stalwart was a Bengali poet and polymath who reshaped and built Bengali literature in the true sense of the term. Words, however ornamental, we use to describe him; can never defeat the mark he creates on one’s heart and mind, through his works.
Composer of our country’s National Anthem, Rabindranath Tagore died on August 7, the same date, but in 1941. He was Poet, novelist, composer of songs, painter, playwright, educationist, philosopher. Rabindranath Tagore is widely regarded as an eminent personality in Indian history and the greatest multi-faceted polymath India has produced in the last two hundred years. He was the first Asian to receive Nobel Peace Prize for his literature (Gitanjali).

Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7 May 1861 in Calcutta as the 14th child of Debendranath and Sarada Devi. His grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore was a social reformer . Tagore began writing poems at the age of eight.

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He wrote his first book, a collection of poems at the age of 17, which was later published in 1901. In the same year, he established a school Visva Bharti outside Calcutta. This school later turned into a Univerity.

Tagore was rewarded with Knighthood in 1915, but in 1919 he surrendered the knighthood as an opposition against the Massacre of Amritsar, in which 400 Indian protesters were killed by the British troops.

Jawahar Lal Nehru with Rabindranath Tagore. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

His literature Gitanjali made him widely popular in the United States and England. His cosmic views owed much to the lyric tradition of Vaishnava Hinduism and its notions about the relationship between man and God. Most of the Tagore’s beliefs developed from the teachings of Upanishads and from his own ideas that God can be found in one way i.e. by serving others and by personal purity.

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He is also a central figure in India’s creative responses to it encounter with the West. The range of Tagore’s creativity is truly astonishing and his work of art have been critical to the evolution of different art forms; besides his literary contributions, Tagore has widely regarded as the ‘father’ of modernism in Indian painting. His significance extends beyond the sphere of arts and literature in the sense that he is also an important milestone in the emergence of a modern Indian identity.

–  prepared by Akanksha Sharma of NewsGram. Twitter: Akanksha4117

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  • AJ Krish

    He has shaped our literature and created a path for all the aspiring writers. His philosophy on life is depicted in all of his poems.

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)