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More and more villagers are fleeing their homes in western Myanmar’s war-torn Rakhine state, even though they live in areas with no active fighting between government troops and the rebel Arakan Army, amid growing fear that Myanmar soldiers will shoot them indiscriminately during clearance operations, they told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The villagers — who are leaving communities in Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Minbya, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships that have not seen any hostilities — have pushed up the number of displaced residents by several thousand, according to a Rakhine state disaster management official.
“It is a life-threatening situation,” Pauk Sa, who fled with his family from Aukthakan village in Mrauk-U township, told RFA earlier this month. “They shoot anyone they can find. They also have arrested and taken away anyone they think is suspicious.”
Village elder Hla Tun Phyi from the same community said, “What we are afraid of is getting shot and killed. That’s why we are running for our lives to safety.”
Brigadier General Win Zaw Oo, spokesman for the military’s Western Regional Command responsible for Rakhine state, told RFA in late March that soldiers had apprehended individuals from villages near conflict areas whom they deemed suspicious and detained them for questioning because of an increased number of ambush attacks on its troops.
But many villagers said they are now running away or hiding whenever they see military troops.
Tun Tha Sein, a Rakhine state parliament representative from Mrauk-U township, said the villagers who flee when they see Myanmar soldiers make themselves look suspicious.
The fear among local residents increased after they heard the news about random shootings that left civilians dead and wounded in Aukthakan village on March 29 and in the town of Mrauk-U on March 15 and March 18.
One man and one women died and seven people were injured during the Aukthakan shooting, including Pauk Sa whose head and limb wounds were so serious that she was later rushed to a hospital in Yangon for treatment.
“We are frightened because they cause trouble for civilians,” said Soe Wai, a resident of Aukthakan village, speaking about Myanmar soldiers.
“We are both frightened and distrustful of them,” he said. “If they hadn’t done those things to our villages, we wouldn’t view them this way, [and] we might still trust them. Now we don’t trust them anymore because they bring all kinds of trouble to the villages.”
‘Really scared of them’
Consequently, residents of Mrauk-U township’s Bu Ywat Mahnyo, Lakka, and Tain Nyo villages where there is no armed conflict are now also leaving their homes and taking refuge in nearby villages with available shelter.
“We local civilians are really scared of them,” said Hla Win Kyi who fled from Bu Ywat Mahnyo village and sought shelter in Tin Htein Kan village.
“They come, and they shoot randomly,” she said. “We are very scared and are running away from our homes. We can barely live a day at home. We cannot live in peace. Whenever they come, we run away.”
Many who have fled their homes said they later returned but left again because they were too scared to remain in their villages after Myanmar troops fired shots from heavy artillery.
“The military fired many gunshots at night,” said Thein Htun, who fled from Tain Nyo village and sought shelter in Tin Htein Kan village. “We were afraid that they might be coming into the village. We fled here because we fear them.”
The Myanmar military’s information committee and Win Zaw Oo of the Western Regional Command said their troops were shooting back following ambush attacks by the AA.
But AA officials have denied having any military confrontations in the villages where civilians have been shot.
The additional numbers of civilians fleeing their homes has increased the number of displaced villagers to more than 31,000, said Ye Min Oo from Rakhine state’s Department of Disaster Management.
Only 4,000 have returned home, leaving more than 27,000 still displaced as of April 6 and living in temporary shelters in Ponnakyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships, he said.
The Rakhine state government estimated in an earlier report that more than 26,000 civilians had been displaced, while a Rakhine ethnic NGO put the number at nearly 28,700 as of April 2.
The government so far has provided about 400 million kyats’ (U.S. $263,900) worth of rice and clothing for the displaced villagers and will continue to do so, Ye Min Oo said.
‘Try to win people’s friendship’
Htun Hlaing, a Mrauk-U resident and former Rakhine state parliament lawmaker who is now helping displaced civilians, said the Myanmar Army should try to win the trust and friendship of local civilians.
“It is very sad to hear that civilians from villages without conflicts are also having trouble,” he said. “There shouldn’t have been any losses in villages where there were no conflicts.”
“The military shouldn’t make people despise it,” he added. “It should only try to win people’s friendship.”
Zaw Min Tun of the Myanmar military’s information committee told RFA on March 29 that troops had conducted clearance operations in villages because AA soldiers were using them as cover.
AA spokesman Khine Thukha said the Arakan force AA has never carried out attacks on the enemy in villages where civilians might be injured or killed.
When asked if the military would investigate claims that shootings by its troops had killed and injured civilians, Zaw Min Tun told RFA that the army will follow established procedures.
“We have procedures for every situation,” he said. “We will follow our procedures on investigations whether it is for this case, in losses among the civilian population, or for any other scenario.”
Zaw Htay, director general of President Win Myint’s office, said in an earlier report that 103 clashes between the AA and Myanmar forces resulted in nearly 20 civilian deaths and 20 civilians injured during the period Jan. 4 to March 28.
He said six of the civilians were killed by the AA, but did not specify who killed the others.
Bangladesh wants end to random shootings
In a related development, the head of Bangladesh’s border guard service on Monday requested that the Myanmar government control random shooting along the border between the two countries to prevent civilians from being killed.
Major General Md Shafeenul Islam, director general of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), is leading an 11-member team in a five-day border conference in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw with a 17-member delegation led by Myanmar Police Brigadier General Myo Than, chief of the general staff of the country’s police force. The conference began on April 6.
BGB officials told their counterparts that some civilians had been killed by indiscriminate shooting from the Myanmar side near border areas, and that they wanted Myanmar officials to control it.
“I request that you stop this firing near the border,” Md Shafeenul Islam said. “Sometimes it leads to unexpected deaths of innocent civilians.”
Bangladesh currently houses more than 1.2 million Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar, including about 740,000 who fled across the border during a military-led crackdown in northern Rakhine state that began in August 2017.
About 1,300 Rohingya are stuck in a no-man’s land along the border at Bangladesh’s Tambru border crossing.
In June 2018, Myanmar border guards shot and injured a 10-year-old Rohingya boy playing in the buffer zone near barbed-wire fencing erected by Myanmar. In November, they fired shots into Bangladesh territory at Ukhia sub-district in Cox’s Bazar, injuring two people, including a Rohingya youth.
Brigadier General Myo Than said that problems affecting bilateral ties, understanding, and trust had cropped up after deadly attacks by the Muslim militant group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine state in August 2017, which triggered the brutal crackdown.
“When we try to resolve and work on the problems between the two countries, it is important for both countries to have mutual understanding and respect, and to follow the agreements between the two countries,” he said.
“We want Bangladesh to work together with us to create an atmosphere with sustainable development, stability, peace, and equality for the Rakhine people and Rakhine state,” he said.
The BGB officials also said that the meeting would include discussions about the inflow of illegal narcotics, terrorism along the border, a cease-fire on the frontier, intrusions across the border, and joint patrols, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy.
A press conference on the meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
On Sunday, the Bangladeshi government sent more than 100 BGB personnel with heavy weapons to St. Martin’s Island off Cox’s Bazar district in the Bay of Bengal, to reinforce border protection and reduce drug trafficking, Agence France-Presse reported.
The deployment came in response to Myanmar’s building of a steel structure along the Naf River on its side of the border without informing Bangladesh authorities, The Irrawaddy said, citing diplomatic sources.
It also came amid Bangladesh’s fears of a further escalation of armed conflict in Rakhine state following a helicopter attack in Buthidaung township on April 3 that left a number of Rohingya dead and injured, the report said. (RFA)
"In India, to be born as a man is a crime, to question a woman is an atrocious crime, and this all because of those women who keep suppressing men in the name of feminism."
Feminism, a worldwide movement that started to establish, define and defend equal rights for women in all sections- economically, politically, and socially. India, being a patriarchal society gives a gender advantage to the men in the society thus, Indian feminists sought to fight against the culture-specific issue for women in India. Feminism itself is nothing but a simple movement that pursues equal rights for women (including transwomen) and against misogyny both external and internal. It states nowhere that women should get more wages than men, that women deserve more respect than men, that's pseudo-feminism.
Pseudo feminists state that women deserve more respect and rights, any other gender deserves no respect. They feel that women should be the ones ruling the world and at higher positions. When feminism takes a turn for extremities it becomes pseudo-feminism and people who label themselves as feminists will bash anyone who speaks against even the wrongdoings of a woman. They'll bash women who're wife and sisters for not speaking up and support any women criticizing political leaders even if it's completely irrational. This is where hypocrisy and pseudo-feminism merge with each other.
They take advantage of the rights given to women to protect themselves to threaten other genders. The rights given to women are supposed to make them feel reassured that they can reach out to the judiciary if their rights are being hampered not to threaten to make the victim sound like the culprit.
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Indian Feminist Movement has made significant progress however, even in the modern world women are still unsafe and are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, land ownership, and access to education. While filling the official papers it is still asked "Wife of /Daughter of:….."
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family. Such injustices make feminism such an important movement, gender equality is worth fighting for to create a safe environment for women. Feminists over the years have been criticized for focusing on the rights of privileged women and not giving equal representation to poorer and lower caste women, which has led to separate caste-specific feminist organizations and movements.
Some notable milestones in the Feminist Movement
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against Sati Pratha (practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre) and child marriage
- Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls at Bhidewada in Pune city in 1848.
- In 1972, SEWA, the biggest trade union for women was set up by Ela Bhatt for women working in the informal sector.
- The Chipko Movement was launched and led by women in 1973.
- #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse was started in 2006 and revived in the year 2015.
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family.Unsplash
Feminism is often misunderstood as pseudo-feminism and hence, becomes the target for public hatred and is accused of wronging other genders under the façade of feminism. It is misunderstood by Indians as female domination instead of gender equality. Indian society and Indian feminists believe that only men are perpetrators of a heinous crime like rape and they refuse to even recognize the men who say they were raped and it's the toxic masculinity in the society that believes how can a woman rape a man? Reality is different from what we believe, women can be the perpetrator too, women threaten to file a case of domestic violence, or sexual assault against innocent people just to fulfill their ego.
Thankfully feminism and pseudo feminism are two separate concepts and feminism is just about equality and not judgment. Indian society and feminists actually need to understand the difference between the two and stop tarnishing the Feminist Movement as a whole.
Keywords: Feminism, World, India, Pseudo-Feminism, Gender
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.