Tuesday December 12, 2017
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Selective sensitivity and cool quotient of crises

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credit: www.premiumtimesng.com

By Ajeet Bharti

Do you remember that Syrian toddler who was washed ashore? Yes, the kid in red shirt, tiny shoes, face down in sands of time (pun intended)… must have wrenched your heart. It is also likely that you remember the Charlie Hebdo killings. How about Boko Haram? You must have read or heard it somewhere, may be, in your Facebook news feed.

If you are on social media, chances are you have (at least once) thought to change your profile picture to ‘black dot’ or a ‘candle burning with a dark background’ to ‘show solidarity’.

We, as humans, feel for fellow beings. That’s what makes us humane. However, what appals one is, the show of solidarity for a cause is often detached from its purpose. The show of solidarity, on social media, is limited to hashtags. It is more about ‘he/she has a black dot in profile, I must have it too’. This ‘solidarity show’, many times, is often a result of ignorance or of hot trends.

In Hindi there is a term for it: bhed chaal (herd mentality). Being sensitive has become a cosmetic phenomenon rather than the true meaning of the word. Often done in peer pressure, because everyone is doing it, people just do it anyway. When asked about the details, they draw a blank.

In India, more people have died of cold in the winters than the deaths as a result of Boko Haram or ISIS attacks. Assam, in the North East, faces flood every single year. People get displaced, they die in the flood and after it, but somehow there are no black dots in our profile pictures.

Unless it is trending, no one, neither the mainstream Indian media nor people, cares. Our sensitivity looks for cool quotient of the news. Would sharing the image of a Syrian kid, face down in sands, be good enough for a projection of my sensitive self? People in Assam, Vidarbha, Andhra are dying in hundreds due to unnatural reasons, I haven’t seen a black dot for it.

It takes an article with lot of adjectives cramped in phrases like, ‘humanitarian crisis’, ‘death of humanity’, ‘humanity cries’, ‘humanity died, again’ to make us realise, we need to react to it. The reaction is, again, limited to a symbolism.

It is rare to see a debate or discussion on such crises on Facebook. Apart from monosyllabic ‘oh’ and ‘ah’, other emotional expressions are rare.

The thing is: our insensitivity becomes apparent when we show selective sympathy. There is no wrong in having a black dot for a Syrian toddler or Charlie Hebdo. There is nothing wrong in walking with candles in hand for Nirbhaya. There is nothing wrong in protesting on roads against miscarriage of justice.

The larger issue is when some Nido Taniyam is killed, when a Loitham Richard is killed, when your countrymen from North East are driven away and you are not aware of it.

It is convenient for us to say that people from North East don’t feel like being Indians without even having interacted with one of them. When your mainstream media, your Facebook, and your Twitter feed is limited to a hashtag trend, your outlook towards your own brethren would have to be limited.

How many times we make an effort to even click an article that speaks about the ‘farmer suicides’, ‘violence in North East’, ‘youth killed in Kashmir’, ‘three dead due to cold’, ‘several die due to heatwave’, ‘protests in Manipur turns violent‘ and the likes?

Maybe, it is not cool enough to be shared. Maybe, the tribals from Nagaland (which is not in Europe, as some of you might assume) aren’t cool enough to inform yourself about the same. Maybe, the whole idea of unity in diversity is dying a slow death due to sectarian beliefs and our discriminatory attitude.

It is not just us but, even in the contentlessness of 24×7 media, mainstream media doesn’t care about it. At times, an IPL match becomes more important than national policy on education.

The brutality of the fact is, we are ok with it. Apart from a limited number of groups, most of us don’t know or, even when we do, we don’t feel compelled to complain or have an opinion.

Compassion shouldn’t depend on how a news piece is being covered. With news media getting monopolised by likes of Rupert Murdoch and Vineet Jain’s Times Group, we can make use of social media which is truly democratic.

People would have to realise the power of free information flow on social media and how it can bring about a change in our world (and others’). Cosmetic, cool, black dot sensitivity hasn’t done any good to anyone. It is the thought process that needs to be changed.

Thinking is getting scarce and Hamletian ‘to click or not to click’ is taking over sensible thoughts. Before you click, and change your profile picture, try to know about the situation bereft of adjectives that (apparently) concerns humanity. Before you tap on ‘share’, try to write a paragraph about why that issue needs attention.

Being sensitive is not a choice, it just comes to us unless we have conditioned ourselves to quantify the intangible.

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Over 100 ‘Chibok Girls’ Rescued From Boko Haram Militants Restart Education in Nigeria

The abductions had sparked worldwide outrage and a "Bring Back Our Girls" movement that gained supporters in the United States, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.

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Boko Haram
Chibok girls entertain guests during their send-forth dinner at A Class garden in Abuja, Nigeria. The girls will commence a special foundation program at American University of Nigeria Yola .VOA

Nigeria, September 21, 2017 : More than 100 ”Chibok girls” released by Boko Haram militants, have begun a new phase of their lives. They have started taking classes at the American University of Nigeria after months of rest and recovery under the care of the Nigerian government.

The girls had been expected to start at the university in the city of Yola early next month, and the government threw them a send-off party last week at their rehabilitation center in the capital, Abuja; but, the chairman of the Chibok parents’ association, Yakubu Nkeki, said the start date was moved up because the school year had already begun.

Boko Haram
Some of the 106 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in the Nigerian town of Chibok, are seen dancing joyfully during the send-forth dinner in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 13, 2017. (VOA)

“I went with them to the school until they were handed over to the school authority,” Nkeki told VOA’s Hausa service on Tuesday. “Since the school has already started, it was decided that it is best for them to go straight to school so they don’t miss too many classes. They were already starting late.”

At the send-off party, the minister for women’s affairs and social development, Hajia Jummai Alhassan, said the girls will start remedial classes at AUN to prepare them for undergraduate studies in any field of their choice, to be paid for by the federal government.

Boko Haram
Some of the gifts packaged to be given to the 106 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in the Nigerian town of Chibok, are seen during the send-forth dinner in Abuja (VOA)

AUN was already educating 24 girls who escaped Boko Haram shortly after the Islamist radical group, notorious for killing thousands of Nigerians, kidnapped more than 250 students from a secondary school in the Borno state town of Chibok in April 2014.

The abductions sparked worldwide outrage and a “Bring Back Our Girls” movement that gained supporters in the United States, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.

The girls who entered the university this week spent 30 to 37 months in Boko Haram captivity before the militants released them in two groups, in October 2016 and May 2017, following negotiations with the Nigerian government.

U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), an early supporter of Bring Back Our Girls, met the girls in Abuja shortly before they left the city and told VOA the former captives generally seemed to be in good shape; but, she said that according to the girls’ caretakers, this followed a long period of medical treatment and psychological therapy.

Boko Haram
In this file photo taken from video released by Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorist network, May 12, 2014, shows missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok. (VOA)

“Can you imagine being held captive with terrorists, men who frighten you every single day for three years? When you are released, you are not normal, your psyche is not too good. They had to debrief them and help them,” Wilson told VOA.

Wilson said she was told that some girls are also recovering from bullet wounds, machete wounds and snake bites.

ALSO READ Boko Haram Refugees Raped by Nigerian Troops and Police, says Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Wilson said that contrary to some reports, the girls have seen their families since being released; but, she endorsed the government’s decision to keep the girls together in rehab instead of returning them to their homes.

“Because these girls had been together so long, to separate them would have traumatized them in my estimation. I think the decision to keep them together was the best thing they could have done,” she said.

More than 100 girls from Chibok remain in Boko Haram captivity, three-and-a-half years after they were taken.

At the send-off party, Women’s Affairs Minister Alhassan expressed optimism the rest of the girls will be freed.

“I assure you that by the grace of God, we will have our remaining girls released,” she said. (VOA)

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Hello Foodies ! You Can Spot These 8 Street Foods at Every Nook and Corner in India

Here is a list of delicious street food items, now available everywhere in India

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Delicious Street Food
Delicious Street Food in India. Wikimedia

Sep 02, 2017: Street foods in India is the new trend amongst foodies these days and are indeed delectable to savor. Previously, it was known that street food confined to a particular region. However, nowadays, a south Indian food can be found even in the north of the country and here is why you don’t need to go all the way to Assam to eat momos.

Many street food items have become quite popular throughout. Let’s have a look at these street food items.

Here is a list of delicious street food items, now available everywhere:

Vada Pao

Street Foods
Vada Pao in Delhi. Wikimedia

Vada Pao is the Indian style burger, quite famous in Maharastra. Fried potato dumplings are stuffed inside pao and are coupled with green chili and spicy chutney that add flavor to this Maharashtrian dish.

Chaat

Street Foods
Papri Chaat. Wikimedia

The sweet, tangy, and spicy taste of Aloo tikki, Gol Gappa, bhelpuri, Sevpuri, will tempt you. This is a mouth-watering street food from Uttar Pradesh. It adds extra taste to your buds when garnished with curd and chutney.

Momos

Street Foods
Cabbage Momos. Wikimedia

The white colored steamed snack of North East is getting popular amongst Indians these days. It makes an awesome combo when served with spicy red chutney and hot momos.

Also Read: “Regionality is What Sets Indian Food Apart” from the Cuisines Across the World, says MasterChef Australia Judge Gary Mehigan 

Poha Jalebi

Street Foods
Poha the staple breakfast of India, with Jalebi. Wikimedia

Sweet jalebis served with salty poha is a trademark street food of Madhya Pradesh. Now the combination is a hit amongst people of the country.

Idli Sambhar

Street Foods
Idli-Sambhar-Coconut chutney. Wikimedia

Idli Sambhar is the most popular street food of Tamil Nadu in India. It is a delicious combo of idli, sambhar and coconut chutney.

Chole Bhatura

Street Foods
Chole bhature. Wikimedia

Chole Bhature, a favorite dish of every Indian is chiefly a treat of Punjab.  It is served with green chilies, onions, and chutney.

Dhokla

Street Foods
Gujarati Dhokla (Khaman Dhokla). Wikimedia

The sweet-sour Dhoklas are a specialty of Gujarat state. It is a famous street food baked from the fermented batter of gram flour. This treat is also served with chutney and green chilies.

Pyaz ki Kachori

Street Foods
Rajasthani Pyaz ki Kachori. Wikimedia

Pyaz ki Kachori was originated in Jodhpur city of Rajasthan. The dish is now relished all over India. These crispy and flaky kachoris with onion masala, garnished with sweet tamarind chutney will throb your heart.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

 

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“Boko Haram Leaders Also Use Religion as A Prod to Violence”, Confesses Boko Haram Defector

Umar is now in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, after fleeing the Boko Haram camp

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Boko Haram members
Boko Haram defector Bana Umar is seen at an undisclosed location. Umar agreed to be photographed on condition that his face not be shown. VOA
  • Umar was a fighter for Boko Haram, the Islamist radical group
  • Umar believes that the group manipulates Islam to its own violent ends
  • Umar is now in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, after fleeing the Boko Haram camp

Maiduguri/Washington, August 27, 2017: The way Bana Umar tells it, VOA and other broadcasters helped convince him to leave Boko Haram.

Until the night of August 18, Umar was a fighter for the Islamist radical group, living at a camp in the vast Sambisa Forest, one of the group’s long-time strongholds in northeastern Nigeria.

The experience was certainly exciting. Umar says he served as a bodyguard for a commander, Abu Geidam, who he describes as very close to Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s best known leader.

And he saw action across Nigeria’s Borno State. “I have been to war about six times,” he says. “I fought in Wulari. I fought in Bita. I participated in the fighting around Chad. I was in the group that repelled Nigerian soldiers whenever they ventured into Sambisa.”

But his conscience was just as active as his gun. When asked if what Boko Haram does is good and right, he says it is not, because the group attacks people “mercilessly and unjustly,” and in his view, manipulates Islam to its own violent ends.

Boko Haram defectors confession
FILE – This image taken from video released by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria in May 2014 shows leader Abubakar Shekau, the group’s most prominent leader. VOA

Radio prompted him to make an escape plan. Umar says he heard promises from the Nigerian chief of army staff, General Tukur Buratai, that defectors from Boko Haram would be welcomed, not punished. And he heard how Boko Haram’s deadly ambushes and suicide bombings were received in the outside world.

“Many of us listened to radio stations like BBC and VOA,” he says. “I listened to these radio stations frequently to the extent that when I laid down to sleep I would be thinking of what I heard. I realized that all our activities were evil. We killed. We stole. We dispossessed people of their properties in the name of religion. But what we are doing is not religion. Finally I got fed up with the group.”

Umar is now in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, after fleeing the Boko Haram camp. He described his experiences this week in an interview with VOA Hausa Service reporter Haruna Dauda. His comments, translated from Hausa, provide insight into how the militants recruit and retain fighters and are managing to survive in the face of a multi-nation offensive.

Persuaded to join, scared to leave

Umar is 27 years old and hails from Banki, a town on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Until 2014, he made his living as a cell phone repairman and burning CDs.

Radical Islamist group, Boko Haram
Boko Haram militants (in camouflage) embrace and shake hands with Boko Haram prisoners, released in exchange for a group of 82 Chibok girls, who were held captive for three years by the Islamist militant group, near Kumshe, Nigeria, May 6, 2017. VOA

But that year, Boko Haram overran the town. Umar says his friend, Abu Mujaheed, lured him into becoming a member of the group. All Nigerians are infidels, and only the followers of Abubakar Shekau are true Muslims, Mujaheed said. Join and you can fight to kill all the infidels.

Umar joined, but says he quickly got scared and wanted to run. He didn’t, he says, because Abu Mujaheed told him he would be killed if he tried to escape.

Asked this week if that was true, Umar said there is no doubt about it. “Even mere rumor or allegation that someone is contemplating leaving the group would lead to the killing of the person,” he says.

He says Boko Haram also discouraged defectors by telling them General Buratai’s promise of amnesty for any escapee was a ruse.

There are more than 1,000 Boko Haram members who would like to leave the group, Umar says. “There are many people that were abducted from their home towns who don’t know the way back to their places of origin. They [Boko Haram leaders] preach to such people not to leave, as if it was divine for them to be there.”

He adds: “Even some original members of the sect now want to leave because soldiers have intensified the war against them unlike in the past.”

Boko Haram defectors
FILE – Family members wait to claim bodies of suicide attack victims at a hospital in Konduga, outside Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 16, 2017. The attack was blamed on Boko Haram militants. VOA

All Boko Haram members must take new names when they join the group, and Bana Umar’s name was changed to Abu Mustapha. He says he became a fighter, not a commander. He said the militants were living in the Jimiya section of the Sambisa Forest, which, according to him, was the headquarters for Boko Haram.

At one time, he implies, living conditions were decent. In 2014, Boko Haram ruled large parts of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, and could operate almost at will.

Now, he says, “Life is difficult. It is not what it used to be in the past. Food is difficult for everyone.”

Some militants grow their own food, he says. “But even when you farm, your leader could take all your farm produce from you in the name of religion. You are always told that your leader has rights over all you have and yourself,” he says.

Boko Haram leaders also use religion as a prod to violence, he says.

“They use religion to tell us to kill with the promise of going to paradise. Leaders quote profusely from the Quran and the sayings of the prophet [Mohammed] to support their arguments. As they explain to make us understand their own point of view as the absolute truth, we must keep saying Allah is great, Allah is great. Then we would go out to kill,” he says.

Boko Haram kills number of people across Nigeria
FILE – A photo shows a general view of one of the biggest camps for people displaced by Boko Haram and likeminded Islamist extremists in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Aug. 28, 2016. VOA

A call to ‘repent’

Boko Haram has killed at least 20,000 people across Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger since it launched its insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. Attacks and bombings continue, even though the joint task force sponsored by those countries and Benin has stripped Boko Haram of nearly all the territory it once controlled, which leader Abubakar Shekau said would form the base of a “caliphate.”

Also readIslamic Terrorism Again? Boko Haram Islamic Terrorist gun down 14 in Maiduguri, Nigeria

With the weight of the group’s deeds bearing down on him, Bana Umar felt a growing need to flee. He didn’t act, however, until someone else encouraged him to believe what General Buratai promised.

He escaped on the night of August 18 with that person — the wife of his commander, Abu Geidam. On the 20th, they turned themselves in at a Nigerian army base in Maiduguri.

Asked what he would say to Boko Haram fighters still in the Sambisa Forest, Umar says: “I am calling them to repent, especially those who want to come out but are afraid… Let people know that soldiers would not do anything to whoever voluntarily repents. I came out and no one harms me. Not one single soldier lays his hand on me.”

Nigerian officials are currently debriefing Bana Umar, as they do with all Boko Haram members who leave the group voluntarily. When they finish, he will be reintegrated into Nigerian society, although not in his hometown of Banki. He will be taken to another location where he isn’t known, to make a fresh start. (VOA)