Wednesday October 18, 2017

Meet Tuhin Das from Bangladesh: Poet, Activist and Writer in Exile

Tuhin Das says he began to write more serious articles as a witness to the rise of fundamentalism

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Bangladesh, Feb 17, 2017: I don’t know how I can express myself, as feelings become obtuse from fear. Soldiers of darkness caught me like an animal and butchered me in dreams. You know the feelings of dreaming are like reality. It is midnight in my Bangladesh.

Tuhin Das is from Bangladesh, but he lives now in exile. Forced to leave his home in April 2016, Tuhin Das sought refuge at City of Asylum Pittsburgh, a sanctuary for endangered writers.

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“I left my country in an extreme situation and I came here not for only security,” he said. “I came here for freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of writing and freedom for living a certain way.”

Tuhin Das
Tuhin Das, VOA

Born and raised in Barisal, Bangladesh, Tuhin Das loved to read poems. Tuhin began writing his own poems when he was in seventh grade. Some of his works were featured in a local children’s magazine.

“Basically, I write poetry because that is my voice, my soul voice. I wrote a few rhymes, like children(’s) poetry,” he said. “They were published in children’s magazines.”

Tuhin Das also started writing other things, like short stories. However, in the 1980s things changed in his country. A military dictator took control and established Islamic rule.

Tuhin Das says he began to write more serious articles as a witness to the rise of fundamentalism.

“When I started writing articles, basically our community in Bangladesh was ninety-four percent Muslims and they did not think [writing] is good because some feelings hurt them,” he remembers. “I wrote against war crimes, some war criminals in our country, and they are still in our country and they are doing their job. They were never condemned, so for that, we wrote against them.”

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Tuhin Das, VOA

However, freedom of expression came at a cost for Tuhin Das.

“Right now there are local collaborators of 1971, and right now in our country there are a lot of their supporters,” he said. “So, when we wrote against them and the supporters, sometimes online, they personally threatened us.”

To save his own life, Tuhin Das left Bangladesh.

Since 2013, Das has been the target of fundamentalist groups who have murdered freethinking bloggers, writers and editors. In Bangladesh, writers are being persecuted under the country’s Information and Technology Communication Law. Instead of protecting Tuhin, the police collected and searched his writings for anti-Islamic statements to use against him.

City of Asylum Pittsburgh has given exiled writer Tuhin Das a refuge.

“I think a lot of bad things have happened in our country and already 16 writers are murdered by the extremists so, right now, I am feeling safe here,” he said.” I am writing freely. Right now, I am writing a novel about (the) social structure of my country, basically the Islamization of my country.”

Tuhin Das appreciates the community support he is receiving. He joined the Greater Pittsburgh Literary Society where he is learning the English language and about American culture.

His work has continued to appear in Bangladesh. In his native language, Bengali, Das has authored seven poetry books. He has served as editor of several literary magazines, written short stories and published columns in his home country. He says his proudest accomplishment is the founding of a popular magazine called, The Wild.

However, Tuhin Das says he misses his Bangladeshi home and hopes one day to return there.

“I love my country and also my family, my parents and my nephew and my sisters and a lot of friends,” he said. “I think the situation of my country will be good and I will come back to my country. I hope that.”(VOA)

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Facebook Suspending Accounts of Rohingya Activists: Report

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Facebook suspends Rohingya activists accounts
Facebook. Pixabay

Sep 21, 2017: Facebook is reportedly removing posts and suspending accounts of activists who are documenting the “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Daily Beast has reported.

The activists said their accounts are frequently being suspended or taken down and hoped that the social media giant would let them speak the truth.

Myanmar considers the Rohingyas illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, whereas Bangladesh considers them Myanmar citizens.

The Myanmar government does not use the term “Rohingya” and does not recognise the people as an official ethnicity, which means they are denied citizenship and effectively rendered stateless.

“We want Facebook to be a place where people can share responsibly and we work hard to strike the right balance between enabling expression while providing a safe and respectful experience,” Facebook spokesperson Ruchika Budhraja told Daily Beast on Wednesday.

“In response to the situation in Myanmar, we are carefully reviewing content against our Community Standards,” Budhraja added.

Also Read: Melbourne Sikhs join protests in Australia against Rohingya Muslims massacre 

Besides repeatedly disabling his accounts, an activist who uses the name Rahim said Facebook has also removed individual posts he put on the site about Rohingya refugees.

“We removed this content because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards,” read a message from Facebook.

There are several such examples being reported across Myanmar.

After revealing that fake Russian accounts bought nearly $100,000 of political ads during the 2016 US presidential election campaign on its platform, Facebook has handed over more details to American Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  (IANS)

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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UNICEF Calls for Action : 16 Million Children Continue to Suffer as Floods in South Asia Claim More than 1,300 Lives

According to data released by UNICEF, the unusually heavy monsoon over the last several weeks has claimed more than 1,300 lives across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

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floods in south asia
India army soldiers carry children rescued from flood affected villages near Thara in Banaskantha district, Gujarat, India (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki) (VOA)
  • Floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh have claimed more than 1,300 lives in the last two months
  • According to UNICEF, over 16 million children in the three countries are in urgent need of life-saving support
  • Persistent rainfall has damaged school infrastructure, apart from depriving children of safe places to stay at, and necessities like drinking water and food

New Delhi, September 4, 2017 : Hurricane Harvey created havoc in Houston in August, claiming 15 lives and displacing tens of thousands of people. The event was largely covered by national and international media alike, keeping people abreast with the latest updates. However, the floods in South Asia, which are equally devastating, are yet to receive due coverage from international media. According to data released by UNICEF, the unusually heavy monsoon over the last several weeks has claimed more than 1,300 lives across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In its entirety, over 45 million people have suffered the direct impact of the rains and its resulting floods.

Floods in South Asia

For over two months, incessant rains have submerged numerous villages thereby forcing vast numbers of people into evacuation centers and relief camps.

According to a UN Agency report, over 16 million children residing in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh are in dire need of life-saving support due to weeks of torrential monsoons that have given rise to ‘catastrophic’ floods in the three South Asian countries.

UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Jean Gough noted that millions of children have already been affected by these devastating floods as incessant rains continue to pose potential threat.  “Children have lost their homes, schools, and even friends and loved ones. There is a danger the worst could still be to come as rains continue and flood waters move south,” she added, according to a report by PTI.

According to official figures, at least 1,288 deaths have been reported since mid-August.

Gough believes the persistent rainfall and the resulting water accumulation have damaged school infrastructure among other things which will hamper children from attending classes for weeks, or even months. According to her, “Getting children back into school is absolutely critical in establishing a sense of stability for children during times of crisis and provides a sense of normality when everything else is being turned upside down”

Among other urgent needs of these children are clean drinking water, sufficient food supplies, hygiene supplies to control and combat the spread of potential diseases and safe evacuation places for the children to stay at, study and play.

ALSO READ Thousands displaced in Myanmar due to floods

Devastation from floods in India

According to a report by PTI, in the northern part of the country, over 31 million people have been affected in four states due to the extensive flooding. Out of this, 12.33 million sufferers are believed to be children.

The tally of houses damaged by the floods has reached 805,183 while 15,455 schools have been damaged, that has disrupted the education of children.

Additionally, the heavy downpour in Mumbai has already claimed five deaths due to drowning while twelve people, including two children have died due to the collapse of a building.

ALSO READ Why do buildings collapse?

Rescue operations are being undertaken in these states by their respective state governments, which include carrying out relief, recovery and rehabilitation operations.

Furthermore, the state governments have also sought multi-sectoral planning and coordination support from UNICEF in the three worst affected states. These include Bihar, Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

Devastation from floods in Bangladesh

According to Oxfam, with the rising water levels, the flooding is believed to be the worst since 1988 with nearly two-thirds of the country currently submerged under water.

More than 8 million people are reported to have been hit by the floods in Bangladesh, out of which 3 million are allegedly children. Primary and community educational institutions across the country have been terribly hit with as many as 2,292 schools reportedly damaged by the high water.

The country has also reported over 13,035 cases of water-borne diseases.

Devastation from floods in Nepal

Floods in Nepal have displaced 352,738 people from their homes, thus, affecting over 1.7 million people. The water has reportedly surfaced to dangerous levels, to escape which people are making use of makeshift rafts and elephants for rescue operations.

According to a report by PTI, damage to nearly 1,958 schools has affected the education of over 253,605 children.

Major media giants across the world are pledging their support to help combat the scale of  destruction.

In a blog post, Google Vice-President of South East Asia and India wrote, “We are committing $1 million from Google.org and Google employees to Goonj and Save the Children for their relief efforts.”

The NGO, Goonj aims to offer assistance to over 75,000 affected families across India and provide them with basic needs like food, blankets and hygiene supply while on the other hand, Save the Children is focused on setting up child-friendly public spaces for the children to have access to educational material.

Similar organizations have taken up an active role to help rebuild infrastructure for the community like roads, bridges and physical infrastructures.

What causes floods in South Asia?

Apart from the high magnitude of rainfall received this year, the floods in south Asia are believed to have been aggravated by human actions such as reckless construction on floodplains and in the coastal areas, waterways clogged by garbage and a faulty drainage system

According to a report published by VOA, experts have pointed out the inefficiency of the governments of the three countries and have said that is has become increasingly evident that the South Asian governments were unprepared for the annual monsoon showers.

However, disaster management officials also assert that it will be unfair to criticize the governments in view of the magnitude of the floods this year.


 

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