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December 29 2013

Contemplating Nelson Mandela's Legacy in South Asia

This post is part of Global Voices special coverage Remembering Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013. Cartoon by Bryant Arnold. Free for use.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013. Cartoon by Bryant Arnold. Free for use.

Earlier this month, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero and first black president, died at age 95, leaving the world in mourning. People in South Asian countries also remembered the beloved statesman in their own way.

Nepal, after long years of political turmoil, has recently completed an election. But the leadership remains an apprehension for many. Satire Nepali blogger Guffadi wrote:

In the past sixty years, we have seen hundreds of clowns who have been offered opportunities to govern this country. But they all turned out to be false prophets who only enriched themselves and their families instead of helping the common folks.

How long will we have to wait for honest leaders to lead us to the Promised Land?

We are still waiting for our Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Why is it difficult for our Emperor and his courtiers to admit their crimes publicly and ask for forgiveness? Our security forces should do the same as well.

Indra highlighted Gopi Chandra Kharel's article in International Business Times, who tried to link connection of Mandela with Nepal, a country 5,725 miles away from South Africa:

Nepali leaders have a lot to learn from Mandela's statesmanship, integrity, and lack of political ambition. His ability to cooperate with even his opponents is a pointer to us during the constitution making process. – Jayaraj Acharya, Nepal's former ambassador to the United Nations

Blogger Passu from Bhutan compared Mandela to Zhabdrung Rinpoche, the founder of the Bhutanese state:

Zhabdrung lived four hundred years before Mandela yet there is something so common between the two- Zhabdrung unified Bhutan as a nation state while Mandela unified different races to make South Africa one strong nation. Zhabdrung fled to Bhutan to escape arrest in Tibet where he was supposed to be the rightful leader. But after he became powerful in Bhutan he never sought vengeance against people in Tibet who wronged him, just as Mandela reconciled with people who imprisoned him 27 years.

Today, when Mandela dies I am reminded of Zhabdrung's death.

From Sri Lanka, Asanga Welikala wrote on Groundviews:

The freedom from fear imbued Nelson Mandela’s personal conduct and political creed throughout his life, and it is the leadership attribute that ensured a plural and inclusive constitutional democracy in his motherland. It is unfortunately not an example that many Asian and African leaders have had the will, the capacity or the character to follow.

Also on Groundviews, Sunanda Deshapriya drafted an imaginary open letter to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse by Mandela of what is expected of him:

At times I wonder what do you have to learn form us when you have become a strong defender and a close friend of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who has made himself president for life, in practice. His path was completely different to ours and laden with violence. Another disappointing news is your close relationship with the king of the Swaziland, a most backward country in Africa. If you have chosen to follow the examples of Zimbabwe and Swaziland, there is nothing we can offer you.

Teeth Maestro from Pakistan thought that not many leaders can extract peace in the face of adversity:

Surprisingly as similar to Mandela being labelled by his right-wingers as Terrorist Mandela, Khan is similarly painted as Taliban Khan mostly by his opponents, predominantly settled on the left-wing. Such resistance, is in my opinion, merely because driven by his opponents who see these “peace talks” attempts to disrupt their own established control on Pakistan. The name calling will never stop true genuine leaders, in fact, it is in the face of such adversity that actually drives them harder to continue their struggle for whats best for their country – Peace

In 1990, the Indian government granted Mandela its highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India). Upon his death, India declared five days of national mourning for Mandela. He is widely revered in the country, but it seems some have never seen his photo. Poet, blogger and satirist Farrukh Hossaini tweeted:

This post is part of Global Voices special coverage Remembering Nelson Mandela.

December 27 2013

PHOTOS: Humans Of South Asia

In 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began photographing strangers on the streets of New York, asking them a few questions, and sharing their story online. After three years, he put together the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page, and as the project grew in popularity, professional and amateur photographers across the world began to replicate the idea with blogs and Facebook pages highlighting photos and stories of people from their regions.

Take a look at how Humans of New York has inspired photographers across South Asian countries.

India

Screenshot of the Humans of India Facebook Page

Screenshot of the Humans of India Facebook Page

Since its start on June 1, 2012, the Humans of India Facebook page has attracted more than 108,700 followers and been shared by more than 17,800 people. Megha Majumder, the CEO of Humans of India Facebook page, explained in an interview to Mashable:

There's this word that I fell in love with a while back: sonder. It's the realization that every random passerby is living a life that is as vivid and intricate as your own, complete with their own thoughts, feelings and emotions. And to them, you're just a passing figure on the street, too. Sonder seized my awareness –- people were no longer just strangers

A decoration of the body, an enhancement of the soul ॐ. Image by Humans of India. Used with permission.

A decoration of the body, an enhancement of the soul ॐ. Photo by Humans of India. Used with permission.

“I'm pretty sure that love and light have something to do with each other. That's why Diwali's cool. Lots of love in the air.” Photo by Humans of India. Used with permission

Similar initiatives were taken on by projects like Humans Of Bangalore, Humans of Mumbai, Humans of New Delhi (1, 2), Humans of Hyderabad and Humans of Lucknow. Most of these pages accept crowdsourced submissions.

Screenshot of Humans of Bangalore page

Screenshot of Humans of Bangalore page

Bangladesh

Humans of Bangladesh is a crowdsourced project that has gained more than 2,050 followers since its start on July 19, 2012.

Screenshot of Humans of Bangladesh blog

Screenshot of Humans of Bangladesh blog

There is also another new project, started in November 29, 2013, by Bangladeshi photographers also called Humans of Bangladesh, which is followed by more than 4,700 people.

Screenshot of Humans of Bangladesh by Bangladeshi photographers.

Screenshot of Humans of Bangladesh by Bangladeshi photographers.

Also available is the Humans of Dhaka page.

Maldives

The Humans of Maldives Facebook page was launched on August 10, 2013 and is followed by more than 2,300 people.

Screenshot from Humans of Maldives Facebook page

Screenshot from Humans of Maldives Facebook page

Bhutan

Inspired by Humans of New York, the Humans of Bhutan page began in September 2012 and has continued to expand its collection of photos one portrait at a time.

Screenshot of Humans of Bhutan webpage

Screenshot of Humans of Bhutan webpage

Nepal

The Humans of Nepal page, which began on June 7, 2013, celebrates the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of Nepal.

Screenshot from Humans of Nepal

Screenshot from Humans of Nepal

Pakistan

The Humans of Pakistan page was launched in July 2012, and a similar Humans of Pakistan page started on August 22, 2013. The pages are followed by a few hundred people.

screenshot of the Humans of Pakistan Facebook page

Screenshot of the Humans of Pakistan Facebook page

It seems that city pages are more popular, such as Humans of Islamabad and Rawalpindi (3,416 followers), Humans Of Kashmir (1,209 Followers), Humans of Sindh (3,521 followers), Humans of Lahore (7,057 followers), and Humans of Karachi (99,647 followers).

Letter by Sakina. Image courtesy Humans of New York and Humans of Karachi

Sakina Gheewala. Photo courtesy Humans of New York and Humans of Karachi

Sakina Gheewala wrote a letter to Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton, which was featured in Humans of New York page, explaining how the project had touched her:

Dear Brandon,

My HONY book arrived in Pakistan today. Though it was five months late, it was my favorite birthday present of the year.

In a country where people fight for survival everyday, I'm one of the fortunate few whose biggest worry right now is getting through medical school. In my part of the world, people like me, no matter how much we try to deny it, live in a bubble. And our problems are called “first world problems.” Maybe it will surprise people to see a “Pakistani” so in touch with the Western World. To see something other than the hatred that the world seems to notice radiating from here. But in my little bubble here in Pakistan, I find inspiration in the stories shared on Humans of New York, because they depict more than what the common man perceives. Yes, Pakistan as a nation suffers more than the rest, we do have a billion and one problems, but HONY reminds me that above everything else we are individuals. That just how every Pakistani is not the same, neither is every American. It reminds me to love and respect everybody– something many people here tend to have forgotten. The pictures and stories on HONY almost always make me feel like anything is possible.

Thank you,
Sakina

December 08 2013

Upholding the Essential Values of the Bhutanese Youth

Bhutanese youth playing. Image by Morgan Ommer. Copyright Demotix (15/2/2009)

Bhutanese youth playing. Image by Morgan Ommer. Copyright Demotix (15/2/2009)

Bhutan has been blessed with a sustained, rich cultural heritage and the Bhutanese people take pride in upholding a number of essential values including harmony, compassion and patriotism. Blogger Dorji Wangchuk has been working with the recovering addicts and alcoholics and looks for a long-term solution of the problem among the Bhutanese youth. He asserts that educating own children is not enough, there is a need to work extra hard towards fostering the children of fellow citizens to inspire them to become good human beings.

November 18 2013

Bhutan's Hydroelectric Projects and a Kingfisher

The Bhutanese people are slowly beginning to realize that the hydropower projects will, over time, not only ruin our environment but will also be the cause of the loss of our nationhood.

Yeshey Dorji, a photographer in Bhutan,  visited Berti, Zhemgang, in search of the white-bellied herons that are under threat, their habitats getting destroyed by large-scale hydro-power projects coming up in the area. As he waited, his camera lens found a lovely kingfisher, ‘fishing for fish'.

October 14 2013

Craze For Football in Bhutan

Bhutan ranks 207th amongst 209 Football playing nations in the FIFA ranking. However, Sogyel Tobgyel reports that Football has become the new craze for the Bhutanese people.

September 30 2013

Bhutan: Electoral Laws Need To Be Changed

Yeshey Dorji welcomes the move of the Bhutanese National Council to initiate a discussion on the electoral corruptions that were reported during the country's last General Elections the possible amendments the electoral laws require.

September 12 2013

Comments On The Proposed RTI Bill Of Bhutan

The Bhutanese Prime Minister has sought comments on the proposed Right to Information (RTI) Bill that is due discussed during the upcoming Parliament session. In a long letter to the Prime Minister, blogger Yeshey Dorji comments that Bhutan is not ready for the enactment of the RTI Bill.

August 19 2013

India-Bhutan Friendly Relations: A Reality Check

Blogger Yeshey Dorji from Thimphu, Bhutan comments on the current state of apparently friendly India-Bhutan relations:

India’s unabashed transgression into our domestic affairs has demonstrated that where it is an understanding between two unequal partners, there is little reason to believe that any commitment – whether written or unwritten, will be respected – particularly by the stronger of the two parties.

August 10 2013

Bhutan's Best Known Blogger Is The New Prime Minister

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, Member of Parliament representing People's Democratic Party and leader of the opposition of Bhutan has recently sworn in as the new Prime Minister of the country – reports South Asia Revealed. He is also widely regarded as the best known blogger of Bhutan, who started his blog in November 2008.

July 28 2013

Bhutan's First Female Minister

According to Bhutan's Buddhist traditions and values men and women are seen as equals. However, women are rarely seen in high positions. Blogger Nawang P. Phuntsho celebrates election of the country's first female minister. Aum Dorji Choden, an MP elect from Trashigang, has recently been appointed as the Minister for Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS).

April 22 2013

Bhutan's Alcohol Problem

Rikku Dhan Subba is concerned about the growing alcoholism in Bhutan, which is creating problems in many families and societies.

February 05 2013

One Joke Too Many? Bhutanomics Satire Blog is Suddenly Blocked

Rousing suspicions that Bhutan's government does not appreciate the humor of political satire blog Bhutanomics, the website was blocked on January 12, 2013 from a major internet service provider with no explanation or warning.

In less than one year of existence since launching in March 2012, the group blog has created ripples in Bhutan's political sphere with a series of satirical report cards for politicians and government officials, and as a popular open platform for anonymous government criticism and political analysis.

Bhutanomics has also been criticized for slander and lack of editorial oversight. According to its about page, it's a non-partisan website sustained only via donations.

On January 12, the following was reported through the blog's Facebook page:

Some very powerful people in Bhutan dont like us. Our website (http://bhutanomics.com/) is no longer accessible from Bhutan.

From Bhutanomic's Facebook Page

From Bhutanomic's Facebook Page

Minjur Dorji reports at The Bhutanese:

Bhutanomics.com, a satirical website has been blocked by Druknet, one of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country. This was confirmed by a Druknet employee though he and his colleagues did not share who gave the instructions to do so.

Nobody is really sure whether the website is operated within the country or the webmaster resides outside Bhutan.

Suspicions of censorship are heightened because Bhutanomics is only inaccessible on Druknet, the main ISP operated by state-owned Bhutan Telecom. It is still accessible through private ISPs like Tashi Cell and Samden. The site is also accessible through proxy websites, via social media and by users abroad.

Screen shot of Bhutanomics.com

Screen shot of Bhutanomics.com on February 5, 2013

According to news reports, both the Druknet General Manager, Tshering Norbu, and Media Officer of Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority, Lakshuman Chhetri, have denied blocking the site.

Rinzin comments on the above mentioned article:

The blocking of Bhutannomics will push Bhutan into an elite club of countries like North Korea, China, Iran and Syria where the internet is actively controlled by the government to block critical websites.

The Bhutanomics blog posts an open letter to the Bhutanese Prime Minister that was originally posted by Jamyang Y. S. as a comment on the site.

If a government cannot uphold itself to the criticism by its subjects, then how will the government function? I believe it is the criticism that can be used as a check and balance to see how your party is doing, and the true health of your governing system. I believe that when you take on to become a politician, it is only natural that there will be criticism – both critical and cynical, but it is up to you how you hold on to it.

Blogger Peldhen Sonam Nima wonders whether the ban will do any good for the country:

Bhutanomics entertained me. Its been a source of so many interesting happenings. I liked the satire part which has link especially to Bhutanese Political setting. [..]

I think it has updates on all the famous Bhutanese personalities. Its understandable why my fellas in Bhutan will miss the Banned blog. [..]

They are all people who have the potential to either make or break Bhutan! I think any Bhutanese deserve to know both plus points and minus points of those individuals.

Monu GhishYing Tamang opines that:

Bhutan is a young democracy which requires adequate criticism to grow strong. Criticism should not be taken in a wrong way, it must be the correction fluid to erase our follies.

However the blogger also thinks that a number of writers and contributors of Bhutanomics need to reveal their identity for the sake of credibility.

January 30 2013

Bhutan: Security Taken For Granted

According to tourists Bhutan is a safe place. But ShyGuard at Writers Association Of Bhutan warns not to take it for granted. The blogger opines that Bhutanese should be more concerned about own security and be vigilant to stop unwanted incidents.

December 27 2012

Bhutan: Steering Away From Democracy?

Bhutanomics comments:

In form and structure Bhutan can be called a functioning democracy with elections, elected representatives and democratic institutions, but in terms of practice Bhutan is getting farther away from becoming a genuine democracy.

December 13 2012

Bhutan's Journey From Monarchy To Democracy

Bhutan's Flag. Image courtesy Sabrina

Sabrina Soares explains how Bhutan progressed from a monarchy to a parliamentary democracy.

October 14 2012

Bhutan: The Art of Politics

Tshering Tobgay, a leader of opposition party, explains the art of politics in Bhutan.

August 14 2012

Bhutan: Women Talents Galore

Tenziniesta at Writers Association Of Bhutan Blog celebrates the recent feats of women in Bhutan. For the the first time a female Dzongda was elected and the Supreme Court of Bhutan has a newly appointed female Justice. The Anti Corruption Commission of Bhutan is headed by an woman and guess who represented Bhutan at the Olympics 2012 in London! They were all women.

August 06 2012

Bhutan: Trending On Twitter For Helping India

Last week, power grids across Northern India collapsed and neighboring Bhutan's hydroelectricity was used to run the Delhi Metro. Indian Twitterati were bemused by this fact and reacted on Twitter so much that ‘Bhutan' ended up in the top ten trending hashtags on Twitter, reports Boaz Shmueli.

June 26 2012

Bhutan: Wangdue Dzong Fire Images

Passu Diary witnessed the recent devastating fire at the Wangdue Dzong which stood for nearly 400 years and posts some pictures.

March 31 2012

South Asia: Every Day Is Earth Hour For Us

Earth Hour is a worldwide awareness event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and it is held on the last Saturday of March annually. On this day households and businesses are requested to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour to raise awareness about climate change. More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour 2011 and this year many more cities like Dhaka, Bangladesh will be joining.

South Asia is a region with many developing countries hungry for power. Millions of people in the Indian sub-continent have no access to electricity, and the power sector is plagued by corruption and inefficiency. The demand is much bigger than supply so many countries use load shedding (planned rolling blackouts) to manage the electricity distribution. In countries like Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh daily there are 4-12 hours of load shedding varying on the situation everyday. The netizens are vocal on the issue of observing earth hour in the social media. While some are requesting others to observe earth hour, some are thinking that this is not more than a joke. The following tweets from the region reflect what they have in mind.

Bangladesh:

@KaziAhadKader (Kazi A. Kader): “@dailystarnews Bangladesh for the first time tonight will observe Earth Hour…” We were doing that long before it had such a fancy name.

@shuvo666 (Shuvo Rashid): No wonder #Bangladesh is one of the most environment conscious countries in the world. We celebrate Earth Hour every day, 12 times! #Blackout

@irteja (Irteja Ali)‏ Today Power Development Board (PDB) is going to celebrate Earth Hour 2012 by giving 12 hours of load shedding of electricity in Bangladesh.

Bhutan:

@AumChang (Aum Chang): i had an Earth Hour today. and also yesterday. and day before yesterday. thanks to BPC power cuts, i enjoy an #EarthHour every day! #Bhutan

A view of an Earth Hour in Dimapur, Northeastern State of India. Power Department of Nagaland, shut down power supplies to celebrate Earth Hour. Image by Sorei Mahong. Copyright Demotix (27/3/2010))

India:

@suyogg (Suyog Gaidhani): Earth Hour in India is a cruel joke.

@MalluJat (Ramesh Menon) 72% of India with no power connection celebrate earth hour. 1% from the rest switch off their lights, and issue PR and congratulatory msgs

@RealBharatkumar (Bharat Kumar): In india especially where I am we have earth hour everyday. So all you people who are switching their light off an hour we do it everyday.

@virenb (Viren Bhandari): People of the world should not worry about the earth hour, India has got it all covered!! #nobizlii here.

Nepal:

@ayushbista (Aron): Please Switch off your lights for the Earth Hour !! Oh wait !! Don't bother ! We've got Loadshedding anyway. Nepal, (Earth Hour Forever) !!

@hardfire (Avinash Kundaliya): every day, we celebrate earth hour in Nepal .. :-P

@cinderellaman23 (SumanK Rajbhandari ): #Nepal may be the greatest Earth Hour Supporter because of loadshedding :)

@nazushrestha (Sujan Shrestha): In case you don't have loadshedding 2nite, switch off your lights for one hour from 8:30pm-9:30pm to support Earth Hr. #Nepal @tfcNepal #fb

People participate in a programme on 60+Earth Hour in Kathmandu, Nepal. Image by Sunil Sharma. Demotix (26/3/2011))

Pakistan:

@adnanrasool (Adnan Rasool): I have to say this… Y r certain corporations spending tons of money to celebrate earth hour.. we have it every other hour.. #Pakistan

@AzeemUhassan (Azeemullah Hassan ): So the Earth Hour would be celebrated from 8:30pm to 9:30pm in #Pakistan Thankfully there's no light in my area in #Karachi at that time :P

@Mahamali05 (Maham Ali)‏ Is Pakistan also supposed to observe Earth Hour? We already observe Earth Hour at least 6-8 hours a day everyday.

Speak For Change writes in a blogpost:

Earth Hour is a serious issue and one must not write against it. Is it a bigger issue than load-shedding that we experience daily in all parts of the country? Is it a bigger problem than the losses in millions we attain due to the absence of electricity to the industries? Is it more serious an issue than the non-availability of electricity in a local hospital where patients are operated upon under standby generators because the electricity doesn’t show up? I don’t think it is more serious than countless scenarios like these, because it is not for us, people living in third world countries.

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