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The festival of Holi: India & Abroad

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There are some festivals, which find their way across the border. And Holi, the festival of colours, is one of them. Celebrated mainly in north India, and now across the country,the festival falls in March,signaling the onset of spring.

Traditionally, a bonfire is lit on Holi eve, signifying the victory of good over evil. Colours, gaiety and lots of fun is the common thread of the festival that is celebrated in different styles across the country.

After a bout of throwing colour,both dry (gulal) and wet (coloured water) at one another, mouthwatering delicacies, mainly gujjias, and drinks in the form of thandai and the heady bhang, bring family and friends together. This may well be one of the main attractions for foreigners,who head for places like Mathura, Varanasi and Jaipur.

Every year, these cities witness a surge in overseas tourist arrivals. Thus it is that the festival has become popular overseas,particularly in countries with a sizeable Indian diaspora.Our neighbour, Pakistan, has even chosen to declare a holiday to mark Holi.

They say, when one is away from home one realises the importance of celebrating festivals. As in India, people settled abroad greet friends and exchange sweets. It may well be a means to socialize but it also serves to bind the people of Indian origin and also to their roots. We take readers on a trip to different countries to see how Holi is celebrated there:

The US

With a large number of Indians residing in the US, Holi is celebrated with much fervor.Indians from major cities and colleges team up with local friends to celebrate the coming of spring. Different societies set up by Indians residing in various cities help organise the festivities. In New York, Holi parades are taken out. People can be seen having fun in these parades, playing with colour.Many a time Bollywood actors join the celebrations that see dance performances, fashion shows and music concerts. There is so much revelry that it becomes quite difficult to imagine that New York is not in India. With the rise in popularity of Holi,celebrations are seen at Las Vegas, Idaho and Arizona,as well as several cities in California,including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Sacramento.

The UK

Being the second largest ethnic minority in the UK, Indians settled there do not miss out on the excitement of celebrating Holi. One can particularly sense the zeal in localities with a large number of Indians. For instance,in Leicester,where every Indian festival is celebrated in full spirit, enjoyment reaches its peak during Holi. Like the US, here too, Holi parade is taken out.In the evening people visit their friends and relatives to exchange greetings and sweets. They also apply tilak to mark the traditional joy.

Australia

Celebration of Holi in Australia is the same as in the US and the UK. However, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan takes a lead in terms of organising festivities. Holi is celebrated in the most prominent location,constantly visited by people from every community,such as Darling Harbour (Sydney). The two-day festival at Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour gives visitors to chance to enjoy performances and delicious Indian vegetarian food and craft stalls. A Rath Yatra (the journey of the hand-pulled Chariot of Lord Jagannätha) passes through the busy streets of Sydney, culminating at Darling Harbour and Tumbalong Park.

Pakistan

Due to the common cultural roots, Holi in Pakistan is celebrated in the same way as it is in India. People here follow the same rituals and traditions, such as cleaning one’s house, preparing delicacies like Gujia, Papri and Dahi Badas, meeting up with friends and playing with colours.Local Hindus gather in temples. Much gaiety can be seen in temples located in cities with comparatively greater Hindu population such as Lahore and Sindh region. In Punjab province, men form a pyramid to break a matka, or clay pot, which is hung at a high spot. Onlookers throw water and colour on the human pyramid.

Others

In countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Mauritius and Fiji, where Indian people were taken as indentured labourers during the colonial era, Holi is celebrated with the same fervor as in India. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is celebrated on the Sunday closest to the actual date. In Guyana, the main celebration in Georgetown is held at the mandir (temple) in Prashad Nagar. In Mauritius,Holi comes close on the heels of Shivaratri

Credits: The Statesman

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WhatsApp Announces 20 Teams To Curb Fake News Globally

In India, WhatsApp has partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in several states on how to address misinformation

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WhatsApp
WhatsApp selects 20 teams to curb fake news globally, including India. Pixabay

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Tuesday announced that it has selected 20 research teams worldwide – including experts from India and those of Indian origin — who will work towards how misinformation spreads and what additional steps the mobile messaging platform could take to curb fake news.

Shakuntala Banaji from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Anushi Agrawal and Nihal Passanha from Bengaluru-based media and arts collective “Maraa” and Ramnath Bhat from LSE have been selected for the paper titled “WhatsApp Vigilantes? WhatsApp messages and mob violence in India”.

The research examines the ways in which WhatsApp users understand and find solutions to the spate of “WhatsApp lynchings” that has killed over 30 people so far.

The Indian government has also directed WhatsApp to take necessary remedial measures to prevent proliferation of fake and, at times, motivated/sensational messages on its platform.

Among others selected were Vineet Kumar from Ranchi-headquartered Cyber Peace Foundation (principal investigator), Amrita Choudhary, President of the Delhi-based non-profit Cyber Café Association of India (CCAOI) and Anand Raje from Cyber Peace Foundation.

They will work as a team on the paper titled “Digital literacy and impact of misinformation on emerging digital societies”.

P.N. Vasanti from Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi woll work withS. Shyam Sundar, The Pennsylvania State University (Principal Investigator) to examine the role of content modality in vulnerability to misinformation, under the topic titled “Seeing is Believing: Is Video Modality More Powerful in Spreading Fake News?”

WhatsApp had issued a call for papers in July this year and received proposals from over 600 research teams around the world.

“Each of the 20 research teams will receive up to $50,000 for their project (for a total of $1 million),” WhatsApp said in a statement.

Lipika Kamra from O.P. Jindal Global University and Philippa Williams from the Queen Mary University of London (Principal Investigator) will examine the role of WhatsApp in everyday political conversations in India, in the context of India’s social media ecosystem.

According to Mrinalini Rao, lead researcher at WhatsApp, the platform cares deeply about the safety of its over 1.5 billion monthly active users globally and over 200 million users in India.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

“We appreciate the opportunity to learn from these international experts about how we can continue to help address the impact of misinformation,” Rao said.

“These studies will help us build upon recent changes we have made within WhatsApp and support broad education campaigns to help keep people safe,” she added.

The recipients are from countries including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Singapore, Spain, the UK and US.

WhatsApp said it is hosting them in California this week so they can hear from product leaders about how it builds its product.

“Given the nature of private messaging – where 90 per cent of the messages sent are between two people and group sizes are strictly limited – our focus remains on educating and empowering users and proactively tackling abuse,” said the company.

WhatsApp recently implemented a “forward label” to inform users when they received a message that was not originally written by their friend or loved one. To tackle abuse, WhatApp has also set a limit on how many forwards can be sent.

In India, WhatsApp has partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in several states on how to address misinformation.

Also Read- Facebook Blocks Accounts Engaged in Malicious Activities

“We are also running ads in several languages — in print, online, and on over 100 radio stations — amounting to the largest public education campaign on misinformation anywhere in the world,” the company noted.

Sayan Banerjee from University of Essex, Srinjoy Bose from University of New South Wales and Robert A. Johns from University of Essex will study “Misinformation in Diverse Societies, Political Behaviour & Good Governance”.

Santosh Vijaykumar from Northumbria University, Arun Nair from Health Systems Research India Initiative and Venkat Chilukuri, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology are part of the team that will study “Misinformation Vulnerabilities among Elderly during Disease Outbreaks”. (IANS)