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A doctor’s ‘jihad’ to popularize birth control among Assam’s Muslims

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By NewsGram staff writer

Talks about birth control were once a taboo for Muslims, particularly the uneducated Muslims living in remote areas of Assam. This has changed largely due to Ilias Ali, a professor of surgery at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, who had launched a kind of ‘jihad’ (holy war) against the misconceptions about birth control and has thus far carried out a staggering 48,000 vasectomies on Muslim males.

Now, Muslim males with two or more children are voluntarily coming out in large numbers to get sterilized and help control the population.

“Muslims, particularly the uneducated ones, are opposed to birth control. It is not only in Assam but in many other parts of India as well. They believe children are the blessings of Allah and all births take place as per his wish. They consider it a sin to go against the wishes of Allah,” Ali, who conducted his first No Scalpel Vasectomy (NSV) also known as ‘keyhole vasectomy’ in Assam in 2008, told IANS.

NSV is one of the most popular techniques to conduct vasectomy through a single puncture in the scrotum which requires no suturing or stitches. It causes less pain and fewer post operative complications.

Ali went to China for being trained in NSV by Li Shunqiang, who had invented the procedure in the mid-1970s. However, it was introduced in India only in the mid-1990s.

“I have realized that there is ignorance among the people, particularly among the uneducated Muslims over this. The Holy Quran has been misinterpreted by some and the people have taken it to be true due to their being illiterate,” he said while explaining that, in fact, Islam is perhaps the only religion which talks of family limitation methods.

“There is a mention about ‘azol’ in the Holy Book, which means coitus interruptus (ejaculation outside vagina). During the time of Prophet, some of his companions tried to reduce the chances of conception and pregnancy by practising azol. The Prophet was aware of this,” Ali said adding that this method became widespread during the Prophet’s lifetime.

“I have been using this and other references from the Holy Book to explain to the people that birth control is not against Islam,” he said.

One of Assam’s best-known surgeons, Ali further added that he often refers to Chapter 46, Verse 15 of the Quran which says “Wa hamluhu wa fisaluhu salasuna sahran”, which means there should be a gap of 30 months between a child’s birth and his or her weaning.

“Since lactation is understood to act as a natural contraceptive for a mother, this implies that there should be a gap of two-and-a-half years between two children,” said Ali.

“It is incumbent upon fellow Muslims to arrest the spiralling population and preserve the environment. The population growth rate among the Muslims, particularly among the non-indigenous Muslims living in the riverine sandbars, is comparatively higher than other communities in Assam. The shrinking land availability due to the population growth is a matter of concern,” he said, adding that his efforts have shown results over the years.

Ali said that the total fertility rate (TFR) among the Muslims in Dhubri district, where the number of non-Indigenous Muslims is greater, have come down over the years – from 2.7 percent before 2007 to 2.6 percent at present.

“We believe that the population growth will stabilize when the TFR comes down to 2.1 percent. Our target is to achieve this by 2019,” he added.

For Ali, this success has come after much pain. He had to risk his life for trying to popularize sterilization among the Muslims. In 2009, an Islamic organization issued fatwa against Ali and his programmes were boycotted for being un-Islamic.

“I had received several threats in those days. My meetings and NSV camps were boycotted and some organization issued fatwa against me. My family was threatened if I continue my mission. But I do not blame anyone for this. I am happy that I have been able to break the jinx and popularize NSV,” he said.

“Of late, the marginalized sections of the Muslim community have realized that a well planned family is the key to prosperity and progress. That is why they have extended their support to our programme,” he added.

Hasan Ali, a resident of Dhubri district who underwent NSV at a camp organized by Ali in 2009 said, “We have two children. I was first hesitant to accept what doctor sahib was trying to convince us in our village. However, he mentioned about the Holy Quran and explained to us that Prophet Mohammed was not averse to family planning. I decided to undergo NSV and now I encourage my friends to also do so.”

Educationist and associate professor of North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) Dwijen Sarma termed Ali’s efforts as path breaking. “I had the opportunity of meeting Dr Ilias Ali during a programme and he explained how he works among the rural uneducated Muslims encouraging them for birth control,” said Sarma.

“It was a herculean task to convince Muslims in remote areas to go for birth control. However, Dr. Ali has succeeded in his mission and I am sure he will achieve his target of bringing down the TFR to 2.1 percent,” he added.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Rohingya Camp Refugees face Challenges in Family Planning Brought up by Bangladesh Officials

The Bangladesh Govt is promoting the use of contraceptives to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims but there are still challenges to be faced

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One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Bangladesh, November 14: As Bangladesh’s government struggled this week to persuade residents of overcrowded refugee camps to use contraceptives as part of a new push to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims, Nurul Islam’s wife gave birth to their fifth child.

Three-day-old Ayesha was born Tuesday in a tiny, one-room hut in Teknaf upazila (sub-district) in Cox’s Bazar district that her parents and four brothers have called home for the past two months since they fled a fresh cycle of violence and atrocities allegedly committed against the Rohingya minority by the military in neighboring Myanmar.

Islam was elated at what he described as his “latest achievement.”

“Having a child shows that you are a strong man. I now have five of them,” the 32-year-old told BenarNews proudly. “And I will try for more,” he added with an air of confidence.

Unlike most other members of his community, Islam said, he was aware of birth control procedures but wasn’t interested because the practice was “considered a sin.”

“I know what a condom is… but have never used one,” he said – a telling statement uttered by a majority of Rohingya that prompted the family planning office of Cox’s Bazar to introduce birth control steps in about 15 refugee camps sheltering nearly 1 million members of the displaced group.

More than 600,000 of them, including about 20,000 pregnant women, have arrived in southeastern Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar since its military launched a counter-offensive in response to insurgent attacks in Rakhine state on Aug. 25, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations.

Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government
Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government. Wikimedia.

‘Deep-rooted problem’

Officials with the Directorate of Family Planning, which is connected to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, launched the birth control program in Rohingya camps in September.

But soon after, they realized they were “only scratching the surface of a deep-rooted problem,” Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee, the department’s deputy director, told BenarNews.

“A majority of Rohingya, who are largely uneducated, are not aware of birth control measures. The ones who are aware are convinced that family planning methods conflict with their faith,” he said, adding, “We then realized we were faced with a huge challenge.”

Before the refugee crisis exploded in late August, Bhattacharjee’s department had about 50 workers.

“We have hired about 200 people over the past few weeks and still feel the need for more staff,” he said. The near 250 health workers operate out of 13 offices in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts and “go door-to-door to educate Rohingya about the benefits of family planning.”

“So far, we have managed to talk about birth control with 150,000 Rohingya. We convinced 7,500 of them to take contraceptive measures like condoms, pills and injections,” Bhattacharjee said.

‘I would like to opt for birth control

Islam, the refugee who became a father for the fifth time this week, was among the unconvinced multitude.

“Our children are Allah’s gift to us. We will accept as many as he gives us,” he said, as he prepared to walk 1 km (0.6 mile) to the nearest food distribution center to bring his family something to eat.

“Allah will take care of them,” he added, before disappearing into the crowd of refugees rushing to get ration supplies.

Islam’s wife, Amina Khatun, 24, said she did not agree with her husband.

“If they [family planning workers] come here, I would like to opt for birth control,” she told BenarNews.

She had their first child when she was 16 years old, two years after getting married. Over the next eight years she delivered four more children. All of them, including the latest addition to their family, were born at home with help from women in the neighborhood.

“It’s not easy to take care of so many children. And my husband wants to have more,” Khatun said exhaustedly as she breastfed her newborn.

Abdul Muktalif, 57, a camp leader in Teknaf, said that all Rohingya couples had “at least five children in hopes that the more kids they have, the more money they will bring in when they grow up.”

Muktalif, who has been living at the Leda camp for the last 14 years, has 15 children – the youngest 1 year old – from three wives.

Officials weigh voluntary sterilization

Bhattacharjee said his office was mulling the idea of providing voluntary sterilization to Rohingya but “cannot implement it unless the Ministry (of Health and Family Welfare) approves it.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said: “Simply offering sterilization would be a narrow and unethical approach.

“Family planning is a matter of individual choice, should be completely voluntary, and women, girls and couples should have access to the widest method mix for them to choose from complemented by adequate information and counseling on available methods and services,” it said. (Benar)

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7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

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Places to visit in North East India.
Places to visit in North East India. Pixabay

North Eastern India, the home to the ‘Seven Sisters’ is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions, yet the most unexplored part of the country. From Shillong’s rainfall to Assam’s beautiful tea gardens, the region is indeed the home to exotic beauty. However, the tourism of the region has gained pace in the recent years. The picturesque views of the streams, hills and farms are breathtaking.

Here is the list of 7 beautiful places to visit in North East India:

1. Kaziranga National Park

places to visit in North East India
Kaziranga National Park. Pixabay.

Kaziranga national park in Assam is famous for its one-horned rhinoceros. It is the most famous tourist spot & one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India. The place has been declared a UNESCO heritage site and attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world. Hundreds of migratory birds and around 35 species of mammals fly down every season to the national park. The incredible fauna cannot be found anywhere else in India.

2. Nathula Pass

Places to visit in North East India.
Nathula Pass. Wikimedia.

A trek on the Nathula Pass in Sikkim will give you a memory completely irreplaceable. The beautiful scenic views which you will observe through your trek journey can be found nowhere else in India & makes if one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India. A vacation to this place with your family during the summers is a must. Also the fact that a bearable temperature in the summer season will let you enjoy your trek more. A trek in the Nathula pass should right away be added to your bucket list.

3. Cherrapunji

Places to visit in North East India.
Cherrapunji. Wikimedia.

Cherrapunji in Meghalaya is the world’s wettest place. The place is known for receiving the maximum rainfall in the world. And, the weather of the place adds to its beauty. It is definitely one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India.

Also Read: 5 Inspiring Travel Stories That Will Give You Serious Wanderlust

4. Phodong Monastery

Places to visit in North East India.
Phodong Monastery. Wikimedia.

According to reports, the Phodong monastery in Sikkim is built in the 18th century. It situated 28 kms from Gangtok. It is known to be one of the most religious places for a sect of Buddhists. The place is a residence to around 260 monks. The place is full of positive energy. The people around the monastery are amicable and have some interesting stories in their pockets to tell you. The architecture of the monastery depicts a unique culture and beauty. These characteristics make this monastery, one of the beutiful places to visit in North East India. So grab your tickets soon!

5. Dampa Tiger Reserve

places to visit in North East India
A bird in the Dampa Tiger Reserve. Wikimedia.

Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram is the largest wildlife sanctuary in Mizoram & a must visit place in north east india. The Tiger Reserve is a home to leopards, barking deer, sloth bear, langurs, Indian Python and a variety of birds. The fauna and flora of the place will leave you stunned.

6. Majuli Islands

Places to visit in North East India.
Majuli Island. Wikimedia.

A river island situated along the Brahmaputra is a home to many tribes. A variety of birds can be found on the island. The size of the island has been reduced due to river erosion by the Brahmaputra.

7. Shilloi lake

Places to visit in North East India.
Shilloi Lake. Wikimedia.

Shilloi lake, the largest natural lake in Nagaland situated in the state’s Phek district is covered by picturesque views including beautiful mountain peaks and trees. The best time to visit this lake is in the summer season. The beauty of the lake makes it one of the most beautiful places to visit in North East India.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.

 Twitter: @ImMeghaacharya. 

 

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Assam Government signs a MoU with Google India to expand Internet Connectivity

It will provide Internet connections to 26,000 villages and 1,500 tea garden areas in Assam

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Assam Government has signed MoU with Google India to expand Internet Connectivity
Assam Government has signed MoU with Google India to expand Internet Connectivity. Pixabay

Guwahati, Assam, September 8, 2017: The Assam government on Thursday signed a MoU with Google India to take Internet connectivity to the remotest part of the north-eastern state.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the government would work to provide Internet connections to 26,000 villages and 1,500 tea garden areas in Assam under the MoU and thus increase digital literacy.

Information Technology Secretary Nitin Khare and Google India Country Head (Policy) Chetan Krishnaswami signed the Memorandum of Understanding in the presence of Sonowal.

“Technology rules the roost in the 21st century and the state government has upped the ante to use technology to carry forward the fruits of development to the remotest parts of Assam,” the Chief Minister said.

He said the ties with Google was a way forward to strongly pitch Guwahati as a natural gateway to the South-East Asian countries.

Sonowal said his government in sync with the Centre was working for the success of Startup initiative but the success of such programmes sans technology would be a distant dream.

“The MoU will be used as a launchpad to achieve the state government’s vision of women empowerment, skill development, and universal education,” he said.

The Chief Minister asked the Information Technology Department to take steps to make technology acceptable and favourable among the rural populace so as to catalyse rural development. (IANS)