Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

November 28, 2014

Mourning Cricket Fans Honor Australia's Phillip Hughes With #PutOutYourBats

Players and officials of Bangladesh-Zimbabwe and the spectators stand up to pay one minute silent for Australian batsman Phillip Huges before the 4th ODI at Sher-e-Bangla Natioanl Cricket Stadium in Mirpur. Dhaka. Image by Reaz Sumon. Copyright Demotix. (28/11/2014)
Players and officials of Bangladesh-Zimbabwe and the spectators stand up for one minute silence for Australian batsman Phillip Huges before the fourth One Day International match at Sher-e-Bangla Natioanl Cricket Stadium in Mirpur. Dhaka. Image by Reaz Sumon. Copyright Demotix. (28/11/2014)
A simple tribute from a cricket fan to Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who died November 27, has gone viral in Australian and around the world.

Australian star cricketer Phillip Hughes died as a result of injuries he sustained when he was struck by a bouncer on Tuesday during a domestic league game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Hughes was wearing a helmet, but the ball made contact with an unprotected area, damaging his vertebral artery which caused bleeding in the brain. He died two days later at a Sydney hospital from his injuries, three days shy of his 26th birthday.

In a gesture of respect, IT worker Paul Taylor put his old cricket bat outside the front door of his home in Sydney with a cricket cap slung on the handle and tweeted the picture to his followers with the hashtag #putoutyourbats. The idea soon caught on among mourning fans in Australia and beyond.
Hughes was born in Macksville, a small town on the north coast of New South Wales, and was so talented that he had his grade A debut at the age of 12. To mark his passing, matches were cancelled in Australia and in other countries. Cricketers across the world have tweeted to commemorate him:
Check out ESPN for more tributes to the cricket star.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

November 27, 2014

Updates on the 18th SAARC Summit On Social Media

The ongoing summit of the The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was covered by international media with different perspectives. However non-official initiatives such as 18th SAARC Summit blog, Facebook account, Twitter and Google+ account are aggregating updates on the summit for easy archiving.

Here are some examples:

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

November 26, 2014

In Cricket-Crazy India, Basketball Is Quietly Empowering Girls’ Lives

The EMRS Gangyap girls. Image used with permission.
The champions - girls basketball team of Gangyap's Ekalavya Model Residential School, Sikkim, with their coach. Image used with permission.
They hail from one of India's many mountain villages, and chances are that their lives would have been spent in quiet anonymity had it not been for an enthusiastic and persevering coach and their own grit. But now these girls have transformed themselves into national level champions in a sport that they had not even heard of earlier -- basketball. Theirs is a truly inspiring story. They are the girls of Gangyap.

Gangyap is a remote mountainous village, located at an altitude of 6,500 feet in the Himalayan mountains of Western Sikkim. Over the last few years, the village has come out of the shadows, thanks to a group of its teenage girls who, under the guidance of their school principal-cum-coach, has become an unlikely powerhouse in the Indian under-19 CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) Basketball league.

Siddharth Yonzone, 37, was appointed the first principal of the Eklavya Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS) for Scheduled Tribes that opened in Gangyap around 2009 and he recalls that at the time, the school wasn't connected by proper roads and there were no proper school building or playground. Yonzone introduced basketball to the small number of students (52 enrolled in the first year, and 33 passed) as an extra-curricular student activity and became their coach and mentor.

At Gangyap, few had heard of basketball before, but that did not deter Yonzone, himself a basketball fan. There were many challenges, but the fledgeling team and their coach persevered. This video by documentary filmmaker Mandira Chhetri explains how the girls had to build their own basketball court from scratch, through manual labour:

Despite the challenges, however, the girls basketball team of Gangyap started playing in the championships in 2010 and surprised everyone when they stole the headlines in 2011 by winning the under-19 CBSE Basketball national level championship, the first team from north-east India to do so. The girls team has lifted the East Zone trophy for the fifth time this year and are currently preparing to take part in the 2014 under-19 national championships, to be held in December.

The Girls of Gangyap in action. Image used with permission.
The girls of Gangyap in action. Image used with permission.
Global Voices conducted an interview with Siddarth Yonzone over email to learn more about the team and how the game has had an impact on the lives of the girls and their community.

Global Voices (GV): What made you think of creating this basketball team with the girls, who are from the remote, tribal areas of Sikkim?
Siddarth Yonzone (SY): I'm a basketball fan, a basketball lover. When I was working in a government school as an English teacher, I had taught the game to a group of boys. This was around 2001-2004. In 2007 I was offered the post of a principal in a new school called 'Eklavya Model Residential School' where we had to begin with just one class, that was class VI. Seeing the very sad condition of the new school, the ignorance of the children and so much more, I wanted to catch their interest through basketball, music and some other literary stuff (of course all of which I am interested in)  I brought two girls with me to the new school (who I had started coaching in the previous school) named Rinchen abd Nim Lhamu, aged 10 and 12, respectively. With them I tried to build a team. Of course there was no court to play on. So I put up basketball rings on a wooden post. Though the other girls had never heard or seen the game, I thought of instilling confidence in them of some kind and had to start from somewhere ... I felt it could be done through basketball and music.
GV: What made you choose basketball as a sport for these girls, when it is not really a very well-known or popular game even in some of India's top schools?
SY: For me, taking the road less travelled has always been my way. Moreover since I was such a fan of the game, I wanted to make it popular in places hidden from the rest of the world. I had also seen the standard of the game played by the girls in Sikkim and other places and I was not happy about it. I wanted to train a team from scratch. I also made them watch NBA and WNBA. Apart from the game, this also helped the girls learn about different places, etc.

GV: Did you have to face any challenges in creating this team and teaching them the game? Can you share one or two incidents to illustrate?
SY: Yes! There were so many challenges, but with the grace of God, (and of course, we were training very hard) the girls started winning immediately. The captain, Nima Doma, naturally learned the game and became a star player. The girls started defeating opponents who were double their age and physically bigger, stronger, older. One of the biggest challenges we faced was that by class VII, they had won their first state championship (all aged 11-14) but they were not allowed to represent the state, which they wanted to very badly. Some people tried to discourage me and the girls by saying so many things. It was only in 2010 when they were in class VIII and IX that they went out of the state to play and won so many championships . But then even today, there are many tournaments to which this team is not invited; organisers give the excuse that there is no competition when our team is called ... (basically there are many who have still not acknowledged this team despite the many championships they have won all over India, in Bhutan and in Nepal too. Another challenge is that some people started to grow very jealous of the girls ... It was so difficult (and still is). These people criticize behind the girls' backs, say this is not their game, they mock and try to put down the girls. Sometimes the girls tell me of how difficult it is to belong to the team. I really don't know the reason why but since these girls were from the remote tribal areas, they were first generation learners coming from economically weak backgrounds, they were not looked after well. Scholarships/incentives for winning the CBSE under-19 national championship twice were not offered or even talked about. The girls finally got a basketball court in their seventh and final year of their schooling after learning for six years on muddy, stony, unbalanced courts. There were even some people who wanted to go out of their way to deny them a basketball court! They are so many other challenges, but the girls were interested and I got the support from their families and the biggest thing was, we met several well wishers, friends and family who helped us ..
The EMRS Basketball team. Image used with permission
The EMRS girls basketball team, in their school jerseys. Image used with permission
GV: What keeps the team motivated? Has it changed their day-to-day life or even their dreams in any way? Can you give an example?
SY: I guess it's the love of the game. They have set for themselves a very high target. Nima Doma, for example, dreams of playing in the WNBA. I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen but I’m certain if lady luck does smile on her, she will not disappoint the selectors. She’ll never let that opportunity go to waste. Even the support given by friends, family and well wishers have ensured that they continue to improve in the game. I try as a coach to give them targets; we have several meetings even when there aren't any tournaments coming up. Their day-to-day life has changed tremendously. They have become athletic in nature, health conscious, more confident, they started to perform very well in their academics. They have travelled to so many places within India and also Bhutan, Nepal ... they have seen more of the country because of basketball. They have higher dreams now. They've met various kinds of people on their journeys, some kind and generous, others spiteful and envious … they've even been invited for tea by her majesty, the queen of Bhutan, who spoke to and advised the girls and gave them presents. Recently, five of the outgoing (school leaving) seniors have appeared for an entrance test for physical education in Gwalior. If it not been for basketball, their options or dreams would be very little.
GV: The girls team has performed fantastically in so many competitions now. Has their story had any impact on the local communities from where they come -- in their villages or in their families?
SY: Yes, they have been welcomed grandly on their return after winning championships by the school and local communities. They are many people in and around Sikkim who look up to the girls as role models. We hear that in many schools, certain principals, head masters and teachers narrate stories of these players, motivating other students to try and achieve what these girls have; their families and villages are proud of them. Reports of their victories in newspapers, magazines, etc., have also inspired many other people. I sometimes meet people for the first time, but they seem to know pretty well about the team and their victories. They thank me and the team … they have said that the girls have inspired them in so many ways. On the other hand, I also feel that they should have been given a little support by the people in important positions, to enable them to get into the colleges they desired, but that has not been given …It makes me want to wonder why? Is it because they are girls? Is it because they are tribals? Is it because they are first generation learners from weak economical backgrounds? I could be totally wrong here but these things do make me think. It could also be because basketball is not a very popular game … especially with too much cricket in India, and too much fuss about contact and indoor sports in Sikkim. But one very important point I want to make is no matter the number of critics and obstacles in our path, certain well wishers have made a difference to the lives of the players.
We wish the girls of Gangyap many more successes in the days to come and hope that Siddharth Yonzone's vision will bring greater empowerment to many more such girls. We look forward to seeing them win -- in basketball, and in life.
The post was written in collaboration with Aparna Ray.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

November 21, 2014

University Teacher Unpopular with Islamist Hardliners is Killed in Bangladesh

Picture of Rajshahi University Campus in a misty winter morning. Image from Flickr by  Kamrul Hasan. December 16, 2013 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Picture of Rajshahi University Campus in a misty winter morning. Image from Flickr by Kamrul Hasan. December 16, 2013 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Professor Shafiul Islam, a professor of sociology in Rajshahi University was attacked with a machete by unknown assailants outside his home in Rajshahi city on November 15. He died from his injuries in a nearby hospital some hours later. According to news reports, the professor led a push to ban students wearing full-face veils at his university in 2012, stoking the wrath of Islamist hardliners. The professor argued that full-face veils made it difficult to identify individual students and that they could even be used to cheat on university examinations.

Rajshahi is a major urban and industrial centre of North Bengal and is located on the river Padma near Bangladesh-India border. Rajshahi University is a stronghold of the religious political party Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chatra Shibir. Pro-Jamaat newspapers in 2010 reported that Shafiul Islam had banned the burqa as the then-chair of the university’s sociology department, a policy that offended religious sentiments among many in the majority-Muslim country. At that time, Shafiul had sent rejoinders to some of those newspapers claiming that he had only expelled one female student from his class because she was cheating using her burqa.

A previously unknown Islamist group claimed responsibility for Shafiul's killing, after opening a Facebook page late on Saturday:

Screenshot of the Facebook page
Screenshot of the Facebook page
Their status reads:
Our Mujahideens have killed an ‘atheist’ of Rajshahi University who had banned wearing burqa in his department.
Public outrage over the assassination has since become palpable both online and off:
According to reports, the Facebook page generated more than 2,000 likes from people who appeared to support the killing. In a long status update on November 17, posts on the page hinted at who might be the next targets of the group. One status update gave an exhaustive list of potential targets including university and secondary school faculty, public representatives and local opinion leaders, heads of organisations, judges, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals, journalists, and even actors.

After the Facebook page link was published by various media outlets, netizens flagged the page using Facebook's abuse reporting system, arguing that it violates the platform's Community Standards. The first section of Facebook’s Community Standards reads:
Safety is Facebook's top priority. We remove content and may escalate to law enforcement when we perceive a genuine risk of physical harm, or a direct threat to public safety. You may not credibly threaten others, or organize acts of real-world violence.
The Community Standards also address harassment:
Facebook does not tolerate bullying or harassment. We allow users to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but take action on all reports of abusive behavior directed at private individuals. Repeatedly targeting other users with unwanted friend requests or messages is a form of harassment.
Nevertheless, in the days following the page's publication, Facebook responded to abuse reports with generic messages such as these:

Screenshot of Facebook's reply
Screenshot of Facebook's reply
Screenshot of Facebook's reply.
Screenshot of Facebook's reply.
Netizens persisted in reporting the page as an abuse of Facebook's Community Standards. On Nov. 18, 2014 Facebook removed the page.

Screenshot of Facebook reply
Screenshot of Facebook reply.
Police say that they believe the killing may have been perpetrated by militants backed by the conservative religious Jamaat-e-Islami group.

Rajshahi University has seen killings of its teachers Professor Mohammad Yunus in 2004 and Professor Taher Ahmed in 2006. Pranab Kumar Panday writes in an op-ed in the Daily Star:
It is really unfortunate to see that public university teachers are being harassed and killed very often. [..] These incidents are creating a sense of insecurity among the teachers of public universities. They are also indicative of the deterioration of law and order in the country.
Meanwhile, the threats continue. The Facebook page that claimed responsibility for killing Shafiul Islam recently announced their next target. The post reads:
Next Target . . . teacher of Bogra Govt. Women`s College. Offense: Banning burka. Offense date: September 2014. Punishment: Death. Chance: Yes. All atheists who oppose Islam be careful.
The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

November 15, 2014

Hijras, Bangladesh's ‘Third Gender’, Celebrate First Ever Pride Parade

Hijra pride 2014 festival began in Bangladesh on Sunday. The photo was taken from the Sahabgh Raju Circle in Dhaka. Image by Anwar Hossain Joy. Copyright Demotix (9/11/2014)
The 2014 Hijra Pride festival began in Bangladesh on Sunday. The photo was taken from the Sahabgh Raju Circle in Dhaka. Image by Anwar Hossain Joy. Copyright Demotix (9/11/2014)
About a thousand Hijras took part in Bangladesh's first ever "Hijra Pride" in the capital Dhaka last week to celebrate the first anniversary of their recognition as a separate gender by the government. Hijra is a feminine gender identity that some people who are born male or intersex adopt, often labeled as transgender by the West.

Bangaldesh's about 10,000 Hijras have long suffered discrimination. At this first pride parade, participants with colourful dresses sang and danced in the streets carrying Bangladesh flags and banners, one of which read: "The days of stigma, discrimination and fear are over."

Take a look at some snapshots of the event:

Transgender people parade with the national flag in Dhaka to mark 'Hijra Pride'. Image by Sony Ramany. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
People parade with the national flag in Dhaka to mark 'Hijra Pride'. Image by Sony Ramany. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
The colourful rally organised by the Bandhu Social Welfare Society  took lace near the press club, Dhaka. Image by SK Hasan Ali. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
The colourful rally organised by the Bandhu Social Welfare Society took place near the press club, Dhaka. Image by SK Hasan Ali. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
Celebrating ' Third gender (Hijra) Pride 2014' in Bangladesh. Image by Sk. Hasan Ali. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
Celebrating ' Third gender (Hijra) Pride 2014' in Bangladesh. Image by Sk. Hasan Ali. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
Celebrating Hijra Pride Parade. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
Celebrating Hijra Pride Parade. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)

Bangladeshi hijras - transgenders - dance in the street during a pride parade. Image by  Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
Bangladeshi Hijras dance in the street during a pride parade. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014) 
Hijra celebrate with a beauty talent show during the evening. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
Hijra celebrate with a beauty talent show during the evening. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)

‘Hijra pride 2014’ ended with a talent hunt competition. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
‘Hijra pride 2014’ ended with a talent hunt competition. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (10/11/2014)
People also celebrated with them and shared support via Twitter:
The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

November 14, 2014

The Google Bus Is Bringing Internet Skills to Half A Million Students in Bangladesh

Screenshot of Google Bus from the Intro Video on YouTube
Screenshot of Google Bus from the Intro Video on YouTube (click to watch the video)
A team from tech giant Google is driving across Bangladesh to teach half a million college and university students throughout Bangladesh how to make the most of the Internet. The specially retrofitted Google Bus powered with 3G mobile Internet will visit 500 campuses in 35 locations across the South Asian country.

More and more people in Bangladesh are going online, thanks to 3G mobile Internet. In last two years, Internet penetration jumped to 20 percent from just 5 percent in 2012. These new users, especially young people, do not have adequate training to harness the potential of Internet and new media.

The Google Bus initiative seeks to change that, not only allowing students to connect to the Internet but also learn about new tools that aid their education and development and attend instructor-led training sessions. Students involved in the project will also be able to use a number of Internet-connected Android devices.

The bus has already visited several colleges and universities in the capital Dhaka. In the coming months, it will start its journey towards academic institutions in and around Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Barisal and other major cities.

Netizens have expressed their enthusiasm for Google's initiative:
Many students have shared their experience on the Google Plus community page. Murad Hossain from Adamji Cantonment College posted:
The Google bus team came to our #ACC college Campus..It's just great :) Though it's new to me but feeling excited. Hope in Bangladesh it will spread soon and gain popularity...
Orpita Ahmed (Bristy) wrote:
Hi, I'm bristy from tejgaon college. I like Google Bus. It is very essential for our daily life. So I like it very much.
On Bangladeshi blog Jhalmoori, Ahmed Rabib Towsif explained the significance of the Google Bus:
Google as we all know by their search engine is a multinational company with a mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. With the Google Bus Bangladesh initiative it would not only benefit the youth from today, but benefit the whole country tomorrow.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.

Crossing Streets in Bangladesh

The cars are following the rules - the people not.

November 04, 2014

Kissing Protest in India Ends in Police Violence and Arrests

Activists kiss in front of live TV creating a fracas in  the TV talk show of Mathrubhumi
Activists kissed in front of TV camera, and a fracas ensued with conservative participants in a TV talk show of Malayalam language channel Mathrubhumi (click to watch video)
Dozens of people were arrested at a Facebook-organized protest in the Indian state of Kerala to challenge conservative scorn of public hugging and kissing.

The "Kiss of Love" campaign, which says it was taking a stand against "moral policing" by right-wing groups, gathered hundreds of protesters on November 2, 2014 Sunday  along the shore of the city Kochi, In the Indian state of Kerala, defying a police ban. They faced off with conservative members of student wings of political parties, who prevented them from reaching their intended location. Around 50 of the protesters including the organisers were soon arrested by police, who cited intent to disrupt the peace.

A group of protesters broke away from the police cordon and kissed each other publicly. A large crowd was waiting there to see the protest.

Police dispersed the protesters violently using pepper spray and lathi (baton) charge. The Twittersphere soon erupted (many using the hashtag #KissOfLove):
Public displays of affection have long been seen as vulgar in Indian societies. Even in Bollywood cinema, kissing scenes have been treated as revolutionary, although the trend is changing.

But hugging and kissing in public is still not universally accepted in India. On October 23, a Malayalam news channel owned by Indian National Congress political party carried a report with visuals of young couples kissing and embracing in several coffee shops and restaurants in north Kerala’s Kozhikode city, terming them “immoral activities.” This prompted several people, alleged to be members of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, a youth-wing affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, to vandalise a coffee shop in Kozhikode. They first criticised the public display of affection by some couples there and then went on a rampage.

In response, a group of young people calling themselves "free thinkers," launched a Facebook page for “Kiss of Love.” It has so far gathered more than 69,000 likes. It describes itself on the page (at the time of writing the report):
Moral policing is a criminal activity. Most political parties and religious organisations try to do that. A group of young bloods join their hands together to prove to the society that kiss is the symbol of love.
Kiss of love event

More than 7,000 users accepted the Facebook event invitation for the November 2 "Kiss of Love" protest at Marine Drive in Kochi. The organisers stressed that it wasn't "a kiss fest" but a gathering of people of all ages to raise awareness against moral policing.

The event received pushback before it even began. Volunteers were attacked by two men while promoting the "Kiss of Love" protest. Police also denied permission for the event, although two petitions to the high court to stop the event were rejected.

The following Tweet mentions a TV talk show recorded a few days earlier bringing the activists and the conservatives including political party members for a discussion. At one point two activists started kissing in front of camera and a heated fracas ensued between the participants.
People supported this campaign on Twitter:
However, some did not like the idea of the protest:
The moral policing issue has become a problem in Kerala, especially for women who are often the targets of such efforts. Shahina KK analysed the psyche of these men who are judging others in Open magazine three years ago. The writer pegged the problem in Kerala as having to do with "a crisis of gender relations all of Kerala’s own," pointing out that men who moral police aren't always from right-wing groups, but can span the political spectrum:
Men in Kerala appear over-concerned about what women do, how they turn up in public—with whom, how, and when. To fall in love is almost seen as a crime in the state now. Public spaces are being fumigated, so to speak, to protect society from such dangers as public displays of affection. A couple sitting together in a park or on a beach can expect to be roughed up by strangers, some of them in police uniform. Meanwhile, cases of sexual harassment, molestation and rape have reached levels never seen before.
The "Kiss of Love" campaign is reminiscent of the Pink Chaddi Campaign in Mangalore, in the neighbouring state of Karnataka, where on Valentine's Day 2009 hundreds of people sent pink underwear to the office of right-wing group Sree Ram Sena, which had harassed some women at a pub in an attempt to moral police.

It remains to be seen when the Indian culture will start accepting kissing in public.

With additional reporting by Inji Pennu.

The post was also published in Global Voices Online.