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  • Buenos Aires, Shuttered | SAAG

    THE VERTICAL Buenos Aires, Shuttered Trade unions are the most potent stopgap against Javier Milei, an outlandish avatar of Argentina's Faustian bargain with the far-right. But Argentina is poised on the razor’s edge: outside of brutal crackdowns or Milei losing his voting base, there are few foreseeable outcomes for the working class in impoverished Argentina. VOL. 2 12 May 2024 REPORTAGE AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 The second general strike this year happened this past Thursday on May 9th, bringing Buenos Aires to a standstill (photograph courtesy of Confederación General del Trabajo ). SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Reportage Argentina Trade Unions General Confederation of Labor Javier Milei Javier Milei Peronism Omnibus Bill La Libertad Avanza Austerity Economic Crisis Inflation Unemployment Poverty Unitary Central of Workers of Chile Brazilian Unified Workers' Central Worldwide Unions' Federation Kirchnerism Party of Social Workers Bolsonaro Military Dictatorship Free Market Welfare Cuts Privatization Justicialismo Juan Peron Cristina Kirchner Partido Justicialista Nestor Kirchner Progressive Wave in Latin America Pink Wave Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. On January 24, in a city with many of its stores and banks closed, there was a suffocating heat. In the blocks surrounding the National Congress, Buenos Aires witnessed the first general strike in the country in seven years. Workers in columns with their flags came from all over to reject the measures of the government that took office a little over a month ago. This scene was soon replicated in the main cities throughout the country. In front of the steps of the Congress, Pablo Moyano, Truckers union leader and co-chairman of the trade union federation known as the General Confederation of Labor ( Confederación General del Trabajo or CGT), spoke to a square full of workers who were raising their voices against the proposed austerity policies by the government. "We ask the deputies to have dignity and principles,” Moyano said. “We ask them not to betray the workers, the doctrine of Peronism, which is to defend the workers, the poor, and the pensioners." Moyano condemned the decreed privatization of state corporations such as Aerolíneas Argentinas (National Flag Carrier), Télam (News Agency), Banco Nación (National Bank), and Radio Nacional (Public Radio). He accused them of leaving “millions of workers on the streets and handing them over to their friends [the private corporations].” CGT organized its first strike just 45 days into Javier Milei's regime under the slogan "The homeland is not for sale". The strike protested the state reforms and the deregulation of the economy, including sweeping labor changes, the end of severance pay, the extension of employment trial periods from three to eight months, and the privatization of state-owned companies. The sweeping reforms included a massive presidential executive order and a 523-article bill , the Omnibus Bill, that has been hotly debated in Congress for months but passed in April. Milei’s ruling coalition, La Libertad Avanza , wrangled a majority opinion on the bill by eliminating many of its original articles, including the privatization of the national bank, with the support of right-wing and center-right parties. But in a country in a deep economic crisis , with the highest annual inflation rate in the world (almost 300%), with 40% of the population now under the poverty line, and a near-collapse of industrial production, the toll the austerity measures have taken on Argentines is immense, and Milei’s policies are still far too punishing, especially those concerning the privatization of public agencies. The Omnibus Bill is on track for a contentious fight in the Senate next week . Over the past few months, unions from all over Latin America and Europe marched in support of the strike such as the Unitary Central of Workers of Chile and the Brazilian Unified Workers' Central . The Worldwide Unions' Federation , which groups unions in 133 countries, called its affiliates to show solidarity with Argentina's workers. This past Thursday, on May 9th, the CGT, the Argentine Workers' Central Union (CTA), and the Autonomous CTA carried out the second general strike against Milei’s austerity policies since January, after the passage of the Omnibus Bill in the lower house. Hundreds of flights were canceled. Bus, rail, subway systems were all halted. Banks and schools were shuttered. Industrial production was at a standstill. The streets outside of the demonstration on 9th May 2024. (Official CGT statement). Buenos Aires, a city with a metropolitan population of 15.6 million people, was as empty as it would be on a holiday. The CGT represents trucker unions, health personnel, aeronautics, and construction. They were joined in the strike by informal workers, pensioners, and the state´s workers unions–the main sectors affected by these austerity measures. In January, Rodolfo Aguiar, Secretary General of the State Workers Association of Argentina (ATE), entering the Plaza de los Dos Congresos along Avenida de Mayo, spoke to SAAG and argued that the government's main victims are those who are publicly employed. “We, the state workers, bother those who want to appropriate the State to put it at the service of global corporations.” Milei's anti-state and austerity policies have caused changes in the national administration. As of April, over 15,000 state workers had been fired. In order to discourage participation in the demonstration, on January 18th the presidential spokesman, Manuel Adorni, announced the deduction of pay for any state workers who participate in the strike (the same threat was repeated on May 9th). The move backfired. The political opposition party also participated in the demonstration. Axel Kicillof, the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, the most important in the country, attended the march. Kicillof is representative of the left wing of Peronism—a camp often considered as best positioned to be the political heir of Kirchnerism. Albeit with a different call than that of the CGT, the leftist Party of Social Workers (PTS), which has four deputies in Congress, also participated in the mobilization. “There was a strike in many places, but the most important thing was the mobilization. The government wants to downplay it, but the participation in the streets was very high,” said Myriam Bregman, congresswoman and former presidential candidate of the leftist coalition Workers’ Left Front , in a statement outside Congress. According to the CGT, one and a half million people joined the strike throughout the country in January, while 600,000 were part of the epicenter of the march in the city of Buenos Aires. The government says that only 40,000 people were mobilized. It remains to be seen what numbers will be used to describe the most recent strike. The Criminalization of Protest With the election of Javier Milei, the far-right has come into power in Argentina for the first time since the recovery of democracy in 1983. Milei is bombastic, a self-described “anarcho-libertarian.” In a broad sense, he evokes a contemporary authoritarian ruler in the vein of Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro. In Argentina, this means that Milei espouses a classically liberal view of the free market, as well as a sharp rollback of welfare reforms. He also cuts an incendiary figure in more outlandish ways. He has argued for the privatization of everything from human organs to babies . Milei has also confessed that he talks to his dog Conan, who died 7 years ago, through an “interspecies medium.” Apparently Milei has been known to ask Conan, whom he has four living clones of, for political advice. But most consequential for Argentina is Milei’s strong affinity with the last military dictatorship: an ugly history rearing its head in a country that has been reeling from the damage for decades. Under the dictatorship, 30,000 people were tortured and/or disappeared . Approximately 500 children were ripped from their parents. The military dictatorship (1976-1983) carried out a policy of illegal repression, indiscriminate violence, persecutions, systematized torture, forced disappearance of people, clandestine detention centers, manipulation of information, and other forms of State terrorism. In addition, it contracted the largest foreign debt up to that time in Argentine history. Eventually, industrial production collapsed, leading to mass deindustrialization of the country during the following years. Having come to strength in the waning years of the last Peronist government, Milei’s political party was supported mainly by young men, many of whom voted for the first time in the last elections in October last year. During the toughest years of the pandemic, Milei characterized the center-left government as a "criminal infection." Milei represents, of course, much of what has always been anathema to Peronism. Under the broad political ideology of justicialismo , Peronism has a long history of leadership in Argentina. It has staunchly opposed the military dictatorships, and broadly supported Juan Perón's agenda of social justice, economic nationalism, state-led market intervention through subsidies, and international non-alignment. Trade unions in Argentina have long been considered the “spinal column” of Peronism. Milei came to the government accompanied by Victoria Villarruel, the vice president and an activist from the last military dictatorship. Villarruel denies the number of disappeared people and supports the controversial “theory of two demons,” equating left-wing killings with state terrorism, a theory of far-right which denies the genocide under the military dictatorship. Milei and Villaruel are the first president and vice president in Argentine democracy who have tried to relativize social condemnation against the crimes of the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) and state terrorism—breaking with the democratic consensus on the dictatorship’s crimes against humanity. Indeed, Milei's verbiage is similar to that of the military. For Milei, there was “a war” in the 1970s, in which “excesses” were committed. Of course, in reality it was an illegal systematic plan of extermination. More specifically, under Milei, “internal security” has become the state’s chief prerogative, involving policies denounced by human rights organizations and left-wing activists in Argentina. The president appointed Patricia Bullrich, a politician with a long and strange history in Argentina (originally part of the left, but ended up in the extreme right) to Minister of Security. Bullrich, in turn, came up with an anti-protest protocol that aims to criminalize protests and crackdown on demonstrations in the street. Bullrich’s protocol details the operation of the security forces in the event of disturbance of public order. The measures include sanctions on groups making such demonstrations. The sanctions include detention or a payment of fines, as well as the withdrawal of benefits for those who are beneficiaries of social security. Despite the implementation of the protocol, the mobilization on the street was massive and successful. That the unions can and have brought the capital to a standstill is a fundamental challenge to Milei: few options are imaginable, save brutal crackdowns, or an erosion of Milei's support. In recent months, leftist groups demonstrating against the Omnibus bill in front of Congress have been brutally repressed. Police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons to disperse protests, which have by now become everyday occurrences. Protests have challenged Milei's government ever since he took office. Ten days after he was inaugurated, he was confronted with a spontaneous cacerolazo (a form of protest by hitting pots) against the devaluation and the increase in prices. After the first cacerolazo, the president gave an interview on radio , where he made a statement that "there may be people who suffer from Stockholm syndrome." "They are embracing the model that impoverishes them, but that is not the case for the majority of Argentina," he said. Of course, there is also a very large portion of Argentines who support the far-right government, in the hopes that it can be successful in Argentina, especially in the macroeconomy in order to stop inflation. Critics of this “pragmatist” viewpoint point continually to IMF stipulations and the devastating impacts that austerity policies have had many times in the past. But in truth, Milei’s voting base is part and parcel of a larger political drift in Argentina. The Rightward Drift How is it that a country like Argentina, one with a long tradition of social and labor rights, has elected a president who seeks to abolish so much of what its citizens have come to know? In the simplest analysis, much blame lies with the previous administration, in the hands of the largest Peronist party, the Partido Justicialista or PJ. Under President Alberto Fernandez and Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the administration failed to stem inflation and thus recover the purchasing power of wages–a crisis that modest wage increases were insufficient to mitigate. The frustration caused by the economic crisis led citizens towards the neoliberal parties, plunging the left into demoralization and uncertainty. The years under the presidency first Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and subsequently his wife, Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015), have long been known as the years of the “progressive wave” in Latin America, a historical period that is often characterized by leftist leaders in the region including Lula da Silva in Brazil, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, and Evo Morales in Bolivia. The progressive wave is often associated with a strong expansion of rights and an improvement in employment and social coverage. During the years of Kirchnerism, Argentina became a pioneer of socially progressive policies in Latin America. It became the first country in the region and the tenth in the world to allow same-sex marriage in 2010 . Two years later, it passed the Gender Identity Law, allowing transgendered people to register their documents with the name and sex of their choice. In 2013, Cristina Kirchner enacted a new law that punishes child labor and another that seeks to regularize the situation of more than a million domestic employees, the majority of whom work informally. Kirchnerism, at the time, also presided over low unemployment rates. When Néstor Kirchner took office in 2003, the country was overcoming one of its worst economic crises in history, and more than 17% of Argentines were unemployed. Kirchnerism managed to reduce that figure to less than 7%, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses about 6 million jobs were created during the K era. The economic growth was promoted, especially, by the gains of productive capital in the heat of the significant rise in real wages, the increase in external competitiveness derived from the establishment of a high exchange rate, the phenomenal increase in the prices of agricultural commodities, and through the labor value of skilled workers who were unemployed during the long recession at the turn of the century. Thus, redistributive policies were an essential component of strategies for reducing inequality in both economic and social realms. Kirchnerism remained the main wing within Peronism, under the leadership of Cristina Kirchner and managed to return to the government in 2019; the expectation was that it would be able to overcome the economic crisis left by the government of Mauricio Macri (2015-2019), one with hefty external debt with the IMF and a weak economy. Despite the economic crisis, the Peronist government of Alberto Fernandez continued with public works and maintained subsidies for energy and transportation. It also maintained the various social programs that have been promoted to support the most vulnerable sectors. The exit from the pandemic and the prolonged confinement, added to the scandal of the leak of a photo showing the first lady and a group of people, including the president, celebrating her birthday at the presidential residence, during confinement. This leak concentrated the fury of a middle class that had seen its level of income increasingly deteriorate and strengthened “anti-caste” sentiment (“caste,” in Milei’s personal parlance, refers to career politicians, equivalent to the “deep state”). Milei on the Razor’s Edge Notably, even before the recent passage of the Omnibus bill in the lower house, Argentina´s lower house approved the bill in a 144-109 vote on February 3rd. La libertad Avanza has only 38 deputies in the lower house. In February, the main opposition party, Unión por la Patria , a Peronist alliance composed mainly of Kirchnerists, voted against the bill, with their deputies sitting in the session with banners saying “May it NOT become the law!” The leftist Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores, Unidad (FIT-U), also rejected the bill. Following the general vote on February 6th, the omnibus bill was sent back to the commissions over lack of support. The main disagreements were privatizations and federal taxes. The government did not achieve the support of governors whom Milei accused of being traitors and threatened to defund. But between then and April, it was been speculated that Milei is beginning to wise up: giving up some campaign promises to ram through his reforms. At least with the lower house thus far, he has succeeded. Ahead of the Senate battle, Milei remains at a crossroads: whether to continue betting on his anti-caste discourse, accusing the opposition that was willing to support him of being traitors and criminals, or sit down to negotiate and make concessions and understand that the Argentine political system is sustained based on negotiations between the national government and the provinces. But even if the Omnibus Bill now succeeds in the Senate, even in its milder form, it is unlikely to satisfy the unions. Back in February, the bill may have been destroyed in the “palace” but it was first put in check on the street. Indeed, it seems Milei will keep facing down the unions, which are now arguably the most potent force challenging him, not the opposition parties. “A new strike or mobilization is not ruled out,” Moyano had said on March 8th. “But it is latent. It will always be latent. If your worker's rights are attacked, if you lose your job, if your salaries are lowered... I am not going to stand by and no union or leader is going to allow them to fire their workers.” When the CGT did carry out the second general strike , it did so with high compliance, alongside labor across the country including unions representing public transport. But not before thousands of layoffs, subsidy eliminations, wage slashes and pension cuts crippled the working class of Argentina. According to the CGT, the general strike on Thursday was "forceful" and it demanded that the Government “take note.” For the CTA , the strike was the result of "a government that only benefits the rich at the expense of the people, gives away natural resources, and seeks to eliminate workers' rights.” But the real question is: have the events of this year shifted the needle for Milei’s voting base? ∎ DISPATCH Reportage Argentina FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • FLUX · Tarfia Faizullah: Poetry Reading | SAAG

    INTERACTIVE FLUX · Tarfia Faizullah: Poetry Reading Tarfia Faizullah reads from her collections, including her work "Alien of Extraordinary Ability" published in SAAG. VOL. 1 5 Dec 2020 EVENT AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Watch the event in full on IGTV. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Event Reading Poetry Published Work Live FLUX Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. FLUX: An Evening in Dissent A selection of readings by Tarfia Faizullah served as a gentle, immersive break between panels. Jaishri Abichandani's Art Studio Tour Kshama Sawant & Nikil Saval: A panel on US left electoralism, COVID19, recent victories, & lasting problems. Natasha Noorani's Live Performance of "Choro" Bhavik Lathia & Jaya Sundaresh: A panel on the US Left & its relationship with media in the wake of Bernie Sanders' loss. Rajiv Mohabir: Poetry Reading SAAG, So Far: A Panel with the Editors DJ Kiran: A Celebratory Set DISPATCH Event Reading FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • FLUX · Jaishri Abichandani's Guided Studio Tour | SAAG

    INTERACTIVE FLUX · Jaishri Abichandani's Guided Studio Tour Artist, activist & curator Jaishri Abichandani gives us a live guided tour of her studio. VOL. 1 5 Dec 2020 EVENT AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Watch the event in full on IGTV. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Event Live Studio Tour Art Practice Feminist Art Practice Sculpture Painting Ceramics Art Activism Art History Politics of Art Feminist Spaces Feminist Organizing Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. FLUX: An Evening in Dissent A guided tour—with the famous Feminist Wall & an exclusive look at the piece Kamala's Inheritance (2021 Sculpture Wire, foil, epoxy, MDF, stone and paint), with acclaimed artist-activist Jaishri Abichandani & Senior Editor Abeer Hoque. Tarfia Faizullah: Poetry Reading Kshama Sawant & Nikil Saval: A panel on US left electoralism, COVID19, recent victories, & lasting problems. Natasha Noorani's Live Performance of "Choro" Bhavik Lathia & Jaya Sundaresh: A panel on the US Left & its relationship with media in the wake of Bernie Sanders' loss. Rajiv Mohabir: Poetry Reading SAAG, So Far: A Panel with the Editors DJ Kiran: A Celebratory Set DISPATCH Event Live Studio Tour FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • Chokepoint Manipur | SAAG

    THE VERTICAL Chokepoint Manipur The many costs of internet shutdowns amid violence in India’s northeastern state. VOL. 2 ISSUE 1 3 Oct 2023 REPORTAGE AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Courtesy of Sadiq Naqvi, from Kangpokpi, Manipur. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Reportage Manipur State & Media Technology & Majoritarianism Tribal Conflict Kuki-Zo Meitei Indigeneity Scheduled Tribes Politics of Ethnic Identity Constitutional Recognition Social Media Disinformation Internet Crackdowns Media Landscape Internet Blackouts Kangpokpi Unverified Information Gender Violence Newsclick The Print Imphal The Guardian Deccan Herald India Today Nikkei Asia Meitei Leepun Churachandpur RSS Viral Clips Twitter Narratives State Government Narrative Majoritarianism Indigeneous Spaces Politics of Indigeneity Ethnically Divided Politics AFSPA Sister States Modi Meitei Peoples Local vs. National Politics Caste Tribes Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. On the morning of July 19, 2023, my phone kept alerting me to WhatsApp messages, as it had done during the previous three months following the eruption of violence along ethnic lines in India’s northeastern state of Manipur. This time was different. It was a video accompanied by the following message: “If your blood doesn’t boil seeing this barbaric and inhuman treatment of fellow human being by Meitei goons, your conscious [sic] is equally morally dead. Period.” Before I could open it, other messages started pouring in, asking if I had watched the video. Others warned against circulating it over social media and messaging apps. Meanwhile, the 26-second clip of two women being paraded naked on the streets by a mob of men—groping and molesting the two while walking through paddy fields—had already gone viral. The incident recorded in the clip, however, was over two months old. On May 3, after the state’s highest court recommended that Manipur’s dominant Meitei community be included among the country’s Scheduled Tribe—a constitutional list that guarantees affirmative action for those included—the state’s hill tribe groups carried out mass rallies in protest. The same day, an attempted arson of a Kuki war memorial and the fire set on Meitei villages by unidentified individuals led to state-wide clashes between the Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo tribes. The two women, belonging to the Vaiphei community that is part of the larger umbrella of Kuki-Zo tribes of the Northeast, were assaulted by the street mob a day later. In some ways, these conflicts in Manipur demonstrate the Indian republic’s complicated politics of ethnic identity and claims for constitutional protection. Demands for affirmative action by regionally dominant groups is not unusual in India, as seen with the Pateldars in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra, and, more recently, the Pahadis in Jammu and Kashmir. With regards to the Meiteis, who converted to Hinduism in the 18th century, its socially weaker sections already had access to the constitutionally defined Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes, and Economically Weaker Sections. These categories enable access to affirmative action as well as select government grants and scholarships. The demand to also be included among the Scheduled Tribes was initially a fringe cause within the Meiteis, with the Hindu Brahmins (the priestly caste at the top of the Hindu caste pyramid) of that community least open to the idea of being degraded to the status of a ‘Hao’ (tribal people). However, the project gained steam with the revival of the indigenous Meitei faith Sanamahism in the last few decades. The return to their indigenous roots has emboldened their belief that they were short-changed by the government, which didn’t recognize them as a ‘tribe' after Manipur was annexed by the Indian Union in 1949. The crisis has been further compounded by internet restrictions in place since May 4. Far from the state government’s stated intention to control “the spread of disinformation and false rumours through various social media platforms,” lack of access to the internet has resulted in a flood of fake news and rampant disinformation, where genuine footage documenting violence has often been depicted as ‘fake’, and where unverified rumors have been deployed to instigate sexual violence. In a civil conflict where the state government has unabashedly shown its loyalty to the majority ethnic community and the federal government has maintained the status quo, both physical carnage and the information wars are far from even-keeled. In this, Manipur has proved to be another troubling illustration of the Indian authorities’ habit of curbing internet access in regions seeing widespread conflict, where a choked information ecosystem has helped the powerful and hurt the politically weaker sections facing majoritarian violence. Background of the May violence In the months leading up to the May violence, a concerted campaign was already being led by Manipur’s Chief Minister Biren Singh, who hails from the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against the minority Kuki-Zo tribes, who were peddled as the key culprits of the underground drug industry and portrayed as ‘illegal immigrants’ from neighboring Myanmar. Although the Kuki-Zo tribes make up only 16 percent of the population, Singh had been stoking majoritarian Meitei sentiments of the tribes’ “sudden” decadal growth, particularly in the wake of the refugee crisis from coup-hit Myanmar, with no recent census data to back it up. This is despite the neighboring state of Mizoram, where the dominant population has stronger ethnic ties to the Chin refugees, bearing a much greater brunt of the refugee population. In light of the Meitei’s dominant demographics (they are over 50 percent of Manipur’s population) compared to their relatively smaller territorial spread (they occupy roughly 10 percent of the state that is in the valley), the chief minister preyed on the community’s insecurity over limited resources and supremacist notions of cultural superiority. By all accounts, viral, unverified social media messages and rumors of Meiteis being beaten, killed and raped in the Churachandpur hill district in part triggered the attacks in the valley. Subsequently, civilians, senior government officials, politicians, and judges belonging to the Kuki-Zo tribes from the valley were targeted. This led to retaliatory attacks on the Meiteis in the hill districts, although in much smaller numbers compared to officials and families from the tribes in the valley. Internet connections across the state of Manipur were switched off a day after violence broke out, which has killed more than 180 people thus far—with casualties growing by the weeks—and displaced more than 70,000 from their homes and localities, reducing them to ghost towns. A police complaint filed on May 18 in response to the public assault against the two women furnishes some details about the incident. An armed mob of up to a thousand persons belonging to Meitei youth organizations entered the B.Phainom village in the hill tribal district of Kangpokpi, where they vandalized and looted personal property. Seeking to escape the violence of the mob, five residents of the village, including the two women, fled to the forests; they were later rescued by the state police, only to be apprehended by the same mob that snatched them from police custody. “All the three women were physically forced to remove their clothes and were stripped naked in front of the mob,” the complaint noted, adding that “the younger brother who tried to defend his sister’s modesty and life was murdered by members of the mob on the spot.” Even before the video of the attack on the two women in Kangpokpi appeared on social media, the incident had been reported by two online news portals—on June 1 by, Newsclick , and on July 12 by The Print —as part of the coverage of the sexual assaults during the Manipur violence. However, it was finally the graphic video that brought national attention to the state like it hadn’t in the last three months. Kaybie Chongloi, a Kuki journalist based in Kangpokpi District where the incident took place, told me that no one knew of the existence of the video until the previous day when a driver noticed Meitei men watching it on their phones. “He had asked them to share the video via Bluetooth, and that’s how we got to see it for the first time,” said Chongloi. By the next morning, he added, the video had been widely shared across WhatsApp and social media platforms. It also compelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi to finally break his silence on Manipur, almost three months after the v iolence, calling the crime “ an insult to the entire country. ” Skewed media landscape Since the outbreak of violence in early May, a steady stream of photo and video footage has appeared on social media, showing private residences and villages being burned down, even capturing the collusion of state police in these incidents. Meanwhile, pieces of disinformation have been shared by verified Twitter handles of socially influential figures with global platforms. This includes, for example, Licipriya Kangujam, a young climate influencer managed by her alleged ‘con man’ father , and Binalakshmi Nepram, a women’s rights activist and recent scholar-at-residence at Harvard University. On May 4, soon after the violence started, Kangujam shared the video of a burning residence saying “illegal immigrants are burning the houses of our Meitei indigenous community in Manipur”. Hours earlier, however, Tonsing S, a Kuki-Zo scholar at Michigan University, had already shared the same video, showing a Kuki-Zo residential locality in the state capital of Imphal, from where his family had recently been displaced. Kangujam has also shared videos showing disruption and mayhem, which she squarely blamed on ‘illegal immigrant’ and ‘poppy cultivating’ Kukis. Meanwhile, although seen advocating for peace on national television, Nepram has also been culpable in spreading misinformation, with a clear prejudice against the Kuki-Zo tribal groups. This includes sharing fake news on landmines allegedly placed by an armed group in a Manipur village, despite the information being debunked as false (reverse-image lookup found that the photos used in the story were from Jammu and Kashmir). She has not yet removed the tweet. More generally, Meitei-owned outlets and journalists from the community, who dominate the media landscape in the state, have been accused of being compromised , heavily toeing the state line, which is against the Kuki-Zo tribes. Apart from the accounts of these well-known personalities, several blue check-marked accounts have surfaced on Twitter since May, thanks to Elon Musk’s new policy on paid accounts which abandons its previous verification process, which have furthered disinformation campaigns. Take, for instance, a right-leaning website with the twitter handle @dintentdata that shot to limelight during the Manipur violence ostensibly as a “fact checker”. Its origins and ownership are unknown but the account has toed the Manipur state government’s narrative, as illustrated in a thread that called Kukis “illegals” migrating from Myanmar who had weaponized themselves to target the Meitei community. In the initial weeks, the running narrative on illegal immigrants and the Myanmar crisis dominated the coverage of the violence in mainstream Indian media outlets like Deccan Herald and India Today as well as in international publications like The Diplomat and the Washington Post . Unequal internet ban As I reported for Nikkei Asia in July, vast amounts of disinformation have emerged from the Manipur crisis not only because of an internet ban but due to its uneven nature: it has offered privileged access to businesses and media close to power, mostly in the valley. Dedicated internet services remained selectively available to particular businesses in the valley and government offices, with the approval of the home department. Notably, in the midst of an internet ban, members of Manipur-based right-wing Meitei groups, such as Meitei Leepun and an armed militia, Arambai Tenggol, have been posting inflammatory hate speech on their social media accounts. “Refrain from creating chaos at Imphal, we can no longer attack them here,” announced Korounganba Khuman, the militant leader of Arambai Tenggol, on his Facebook account. Written in Meitei Lon, he added, “We have a plan, which you'll hear about in two days’ time. Let's work together on this. Let us fight with all our might for our land and identity.” No action from the state government has been initiated on such open invocations of violence against the Kuki-Zo communities. Meanwhile, Meitei Leepun’s founding leader Pramot Singh went on national television (in an interview with veteran journalist Karan Thapar in The Wire ), threatening to “blow away” the tribals from the hills. In the past, Singh has been associated with Akhil Bhartiya Vishwa Parishad, the student wing of the Hindu nationalist militant outfit Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Both groups—Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun—have been openly endorsed by Chief Minister Singh and Leishemba Sanajaoba, the titular king of Manipur and a member of the upper house of the parliament. On July 25, Manipur state authorities lifted the ban on broadband services while retaining several severe restrictions. This included blocking social media websites, virtual private network (VPN) services and WiFi hotspots, while allowing for the physical monitoring of subscribers by concerned officials. Those seeking to access the internet under these conditions were required to sign an undertaking agreeing to the enforced monitoring by officials. After nearly five months of ban, mobile internet access was resumed by the state government on September 23, only to be soon suspended for the next five days amid protests after photographs showing the allegedly deceased bodies of two missing Meitei students surfaced online. The state government confirmed their death in a statement, but their bodies remain missing at the time of the publication of this story . A marketing professional from Imphal Valley, who asked not to be identified, said that in the early days of the internet ban, people were resorting to all sorts of loopholes: machine SIM cards used for digital payment (apps like Paytm and Google Pay), Vodafone VPN ports, and international E-SIMs like Airalo . “People would use SIM cards bought from other states, since Vodafone sim cards sold out in Manipur very fast at a going rate of INR 2000,” he said, speaking from an undisclosed location in the Northeast that he and his family have moved to temporarily. The IT company where his wife works had put her on leave during the shutdown weeks and was threatening layoffs to employees who wouldn’t come online. Sources from the area told me that local broadband providers in both the hills and the valley did not comply with the government order to switch off internet services. SAAG has accessed a copy of a state-government order that notes the “misuse of additional connection on whitelisted/reactivated” internet lines and reports of “accessibility of internet facility” in the Kuki-majority Churachandpur area. No such order was issued against any centers in the valley, even though the government eventually put a curb on all these loopholes. For five years, India has been leading the global record for the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the world with at least 84 cases recorded in 2022 , far higher than the war-hit Ukraine, which saw 22 shutdowns imposed by the Russian military after their invasion of the country. According to Software Freedom Law Centre ’s internet shutdown tracker , India has seen a total of 759 shutdowns since 2012, with Jammu and Kashmir experiencing the majority of the bans, and Manipur featuring fourth on the list. In June, a joint report on internet shutdowns in India, released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Internet Freedom Foundation , a digital rights advocacy group in India, found that the Indian authorities’ decisions to disrupt internet access were “often erratic and unlawful”. The report cited a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology report that concluded, “So far, there is no proof to indicate that internet shutdown [sic] has been effective in addressing public emergency and ensuring public safety.” Meenakshi Ganguly, the HRW South Asia director, told me that while authorities have the responsibility to contain the spread of incitement to hate or violence, and to combat disinformation, simply denying internet access can end up further stoking fear and divisiveness. “Without access to credible information, internet shutdowns risk the spread of rumor-based retaliatory attacks, perpetuating the cycle of violence,” she said. Missing outrage The role of fake news and disinformation in instigating violence, including sexual assaults, against tribal women in Manipur has been well-documented . However, despite videos of these incidents floating online after the breakout of the violence, neither local nor national media reported on it or verified and pursued these leads. Several weeks before the infamous Kangpokpi video of the two women being paraded naked was out, another clip of a Kuki-Zo woman begging Meitei women to let go of her was doing the rounds. Speaking in Meitei Lon, the Meitei women are seen instigating men to rape 29-year-old Nancy Chingthianniang, who was later interviewed by the UK-based Guardian , a few weeks before her video went viral again. She lost her husband and mother-in-law to the mob. Chingthianniang herself was beaten black and blue until she passed out. Seeing the video of herself instantly triggered her. “I felt scared like I was back in that moment even though I was not raped,” she told me over the phone. When asked how she felt about these videos of herself and the women paraded being circulated online, Chingthianniang said it was for the better. “Hoi ka sa, eh; I'm glad that it’s out,” she said. “Now people know what these Meira Paibis (Meitei civic activists known as ‘women torchbearers’) really did to us.” While the public responses to the viral Kangpokpi video was welcomed by the Kuki-Zo community, especially as it led to the swift arrest of at least seven of the accused, the heinous crimes against the community have not seen similar reactions. On July 2, two weeks before the Kangpokpi video was released, photos and footage of a severed head perched on a fence went viral on WhatsApp groups, shocking members of the Kuki-Zo community. The head belonged to David Thiek, a resident of Langza village in the foothills of the Churachandpur tribal hill district. He had been defending his village on the day when an armed militia from the valley attacked it. Thiek’s head was severed off and his body burned down to ashes, the remains of which were draped in the traditional shawl of the Hmar tribe that he belonged to. A few days later, Sang Tonsing, a 24-year-old social worker from the Kuki-Zo community living outside Manipur, saw the screenshot of a photo posted by a Twitter account titled ‘Nongthombam Rohen Meetei’ (now deleted) with the caption, “Killing of meetei by kuki militants [sic]”. The photo showed a man, his face digitally obscured by red brush strokes, holding a machete in one hand and a severed head in another. A copy of the photo downloaded from Twitter shows a time stamp of 5.45 p.m. on July 2, 2023. Suspecting the severed head to belong to Thiek, Tonsing and a group of other social-media savvy friends attempted to verify the photo, beginning with reverse image verification on Google and TinEye. The photo appeared original. Tonsing then began scanning the local Meitei news channels, particularly Mami and Elite TV, since these channels had extensively covered the chief minister visiting the Meitei-dominated Bishnupur district in the valley, bordering the Kuki Zo villages that were attacked. That is when he noticed the same outfit as was worn by the man in the photo: a dark-teal-colored full-sleeved t-shirt paired with brown track pants and a camouflage tactical vest. “There was no way that another person could be wearing the same exact outfit,” he said. But that wasn’t their only lead. The person seen on the news clip, whose outfit matched with that of the assailant in the photograph, was eventually tracked on Facebook. He was identified as Mairembam Romesh Mangang, the public relations officer or the security detail of S Premchandra Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party member of Manipur’s legislative assembly who represented the Kumbi constituency. Tonsing said that they instinctively thought to check the accounts of those associated with the MLA of Kumbi, since it was close to Langza village, where David was killed. “Secondly,” he added, “Kumbi is known to be a hotspot of Meitei insurgent groups where politicians conduct their financial dealings with underground groups.” The screenshot is now part of an investigation into the incident where members of the Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun are among the accused. SAAG reached out to Premchandra Singh, the MLA of Kumbi, who did not respond to the request for comment. (This piece will be updated as and when he responds.) While Tonsing and his friends may have made a plausible case of identification, what remains unexplained is why that photo was leaked online. His guess is one of three scenarios: one, someone from one of the Meitei-run WhatsApp groups carelessly uploaded it; two, there may still be whistleblowers among the Meitei groups who want the truth out; and three, which he thinks most likely, is that this was an attempt to manipulate the narrative in their favor as victims rather than perpetrators of the crime. Either way, he’s certain that more videos would surface once the internet ban is fully lifted. “Nowadays everyone’s got a smartphone and they are filming videos when they go to burn villages. Since these are mobs of 5000-odd people, they can’t control what people are shooting”, said Tonsing. Meanwhile in the valley, there have been news reports, albeit unverified, of missing Meitei individuals being tortured and killed in viral clips. In early July, hours after two cousins—27-year-old Irengbam Chinkheinganba and 31-year-old Sagolshem Ngaleiba Meitei from Kakching District—had gone missing, a video began circulating which showed two men being slapped and kicked, before being shot from behind. A BBC report noted that another video showing the shooting of a man surfaced two months later. While neither of the videos has been independently verified, the families of the missing two have identified the two men in the videos as Chinkheinganba and Ngaleibav. Similarly, the parents of a young teenager , who went missing along with her friend near the hill district, have identified their daughter in a clip that showed a girl being beheaded, allegedly by Kuki assailants. However, when SAAG checked the video, the perpetrators were speaking in the Burmese tongue, and not any of the languages or dialects native to Manipur. Videos connected to both of these disappearances surfaced only after the clip of the naked Vaipehi women made headlines. In our post-truth era, the conflict is not limited to violence in the buffer zones, but is also a war of perceptions on social media where fake news, morphed footage, and decontextualized information often seek to compound the confusion. Majoritarian manipulation Manipur is a state now divided like never before. Ethnic fault lines have always run deep, sometimes deeper and thicker than bloodlines despite enough instances of intermarriage between communities. The murder of a 7-year-old Kuki boy in early June, alongside his mother and his maternal aunt, en route to a hospital through the valley is emblematic of this. Even though the boy’s mother and maternal aunt belonged to the Meitei community, the mob made up of Meira Paibis and other Meiteis did not spare them and set the ambulance on fire after the murders. Local media operating out of Imphal and dominated by journalists from the Meitei community —or owned by politicians of the same community—did not report this incident, just as they ignored several other stories like the seven rape cases registered to date . Forget the tyranny of distance between New Delhi-based national media and Manipur, newsrooms based in the valley often don’t go and cover neighboring hill districts. In the present crisis, where Manipur’s Chief Minister Singh stands accused of orchestrating the violence against the Kuki-Zo community, with the majority-controlled media not covering the hills, and given only a partial lift on the internet blackout, the scales are tipped heavily against the minority tribes. In early September, in a report on the media coverage of the violence, the Editors’ Guild of India lamented how the Manipur media had turned into “Meitei media” and held the internet ban responsible for the media being overly reliant on the state’s narrative. Shortly after, two police complaints under sections of defamation, promoting enmity, and criminal conspiracy were filed against members of the Guild’s fact-finding committee. Meanwhile, rather than working to gain the confidence of the Kuki-Zo communities as their political representative, we instead find the chief minister getting into a late-night spat on Twitter, asking a Kuki-identifying user if they are from Manipur or Myanmar. As violence continues unabated in the “ buffer zones ” between the hills and the valley, where both communities live in relative proximity, rumors and disinformation remain rampant on both sides. In the din of contrasting narratives laying the blame exclusively on the other side, Spearcorps , an official Indian Army account on Twitter, has emerged as a neutral line for updates on the clashes. After days of speculation over the women-led civil-society group Meira Paibis aiding armed rioters to attack tribal villages by creating road blockades, the Spearcorps posted a tweet noting that “Women activists in #Manipur are deliberately blocking routes and interfering in Operations of Security Forces.” The post went on to appeal to “all sections of population to support our endeavours in restoring peace.” This new normal is especially significant in a state that has a long history of confrontation with the Indian Army, which stands accused of many human-rights excesses through the application of a special martial law, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Naturally, the dominant Meitei community, its representative media and the state government see the army as biased in favor of the tribal groups, and accuse the armed forces of assisting Kuki "militants" . When I spoke to a source in the army who has been monitoring the security situation in Manipur, he argued that the neutrality of central security forces was evident in their assistance in the speedy evacuation of Meiteis from the hill districts. The only time that the local media had ever portrayed them in a positive light, he said, was when they reported the “rescue” of five Meitei civilians from Kuki “militants” (notably, Meitei attackers are often called ‘miscreants’ in these reports). “Except that it was the Kukis who had handed over the Meitei civilians to us in good faith,” he told me. But that detail never made it in any of the Meitei-run press. With such opportunities for solidarity that could have led to a ceasefire on violence and retaliatory attacks now looking increasingly remote, we find the strengthening of the Kuki-Zo tribes’ resolve to settle for separate administration away from the Manipur government. To be sure, the disturbing video of the Vaiphei women may have led to police action after weeks of inaction, and it has alerted the country and the world to the scale of violence. But on the home front, the civil war is nowhere near an end. In turn, it only fueled the war over narratives, where Manipuri social media was suddenly filled with posts asking Meitei women to come out with stories of their defilement. On August 9, the first police complaint of a Meitei woman alleging sexual assault was filed in the valley, in which the complainant said she was assaulted by “Kuki miscreants” on May 3, when Meitei houses in Churachandpur were being burned down. “The delay in filing this complaint is due to social stigma,” the complaint said. In the midst of all the suffering and counter narratives, Prime Minister Modi only took cognizance of the video, which he called “an insult to society,” while undermining the scale and context of the conflict in Manipur by equating it to violence in states like Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Despite the terrible cost that the two tribal women had to pay with their dignity for Modi—and the rest of India—to finally take notice and speak up, he maintained his position as a BJP star campaigner rather than the leader of a democracy. Apar Gupta, an advocate who founded Internet Freedom Foundation, was apologetic in his tone as many have been while talking to me about Manipur, which happens to be my home state. Beyond the scale of violence that the viral video alone has revealed and the sore lack of access to relief and medical aid for the internally displaced, he sharply questioned whose interest the internet ban had served. “I believe beyond this individual specific instance, the internet shutdown has served the function of contouring our media national narrative,” said Gupta. “Manipur is burning, but we don't care.” ∎ DISPATCH Reportage Manipur FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • The Craft of Writing in Occupied Kashmir | SAAG

    COMMUNITY The Craft of Writing in Occupied Kashmir Kashmiri poet Huzaifa Pandit in conversation with Nazish Chunara. VOL. 1 24 Jan 2021 INTERVIEW AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Watch the interview on YouTube or IGTV. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Interview Kashmiri Poetics Historicity Poetic Form Poetry Kashmiri Struggle Kashmir Faiz Ahmed Faiz Agha Shahid Ali Mahmoud Darwish PTSD Trauma Mass Protests Memory Language Diversity Urdu Resistance Poetry Metaphor Metaphoricity Raj Rao Varavara Rao Journaling Occupation Pune University Language Language Politics Hindutva Despair Defiance Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. By abolishing Urdu, they are removing its historical significance... By pushing for the extinction of a language, you're pushing the extinction of a history and the sentiments associated with that history. Because in life the present is a function of the past. And so, by altering that past, they're hoping to alter the present altogether beyond the cognition. RECOMMENDED: Green is the Colour of Memory (Hawakal Publishers, 2018) by Huzaifa Pandit. DISPATCH Interview Kashmiri Poetics FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • A State of Perpetual War: Fiction & the Sri Lankan Civil War | SAAG

    COMMUNITY A State of Perpetual War: Fiction & the Sri Lankan Civil War Novelist Shehan Karunatilaka in conversation with Fiction Editor Kartika Budhwar. VOL. 1 10 Jan 2021 INTERVIEW AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Watch the interview on YouTube or IGTV. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Interview Sri Lanka Sri Lankan Civil War Satire Chinaman Tamil Tigers Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Enforced Disappearances Cricket Extrajudicial Killings Kumar Sangakkara Shakthika Sathkumara Sri Lankan Literary Tradition Chats with the Dead Booker Prize Buddhism Ghost Stories Theater South Asian Theater Carl Muller Anarchist Writing Writing about Recent History Discourses of War Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Marxist-Leninist Uprising JVP Worrying Humor Gallows Humor Absurdity Queerness Gananath Obeyesekere Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. The stereotypes of the commercial sphere, the smiley, happy go lucky, Sri Lankans—there is something to that stereotype. It's not a grim place, even though a lot of grim things take place here. A tragedy will happen, the jokes will start almost immediately. Maybe it's gallows humor or a coping mechanism. Whatever it is, that seems to always be there. RECOMMENDED: This interview took place prior to the publication of Shehan Karunatilaka's Booker-Prize winning novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida (Penguin), which he discusses in the interview as a work-in-progress. DISPATCH Interview Sri Lanka FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • Experimentalism in the Face of Fascism | SAAG

    COMMUNITY Experimentalism in the Face of Fascism Writer Meena Kandasamy, in conversation with Advisory Editor Aparna Gopalan. VOL. 1 7 Sept 2020 INTERVIEW AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Watch the interview on YouTube or IGTV. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Interview Sociolinguistics Avant-Garde Form Experimental Methods Dalit Literature Dalit Histories Indian Fascism Tamil Tigers Auto-Fiction Bhima Koregaon Marxist Theory André Breton Absurdity Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. There is a certain overpowering influence when this totalitarian power is coming to get you. Then you turn to the most absurd forms of storytelling and play. How do you laugh at untrammeled power? Either you are completely terrorized by it, or you completely delegitimize its authority by laughing in its face and doing the most absurd things. RECOMMENDED: The Orders Were to Rape You: Tigresses in the Tamil Eelam Struggle , the newest book by Kandasamy (Navayana, 2021). DISPATCH Interview Sociolinguistics FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • Universalism & Solidarity in a Post-Roe Landscape | SAAG

    THE VERTICAL Universalism & Solidarity in a Post-Roe Landscape In the absence of a legal foundation for abortion care, solidarity amongst communities of color requires meticulous attention to history and strategy. VOL. 2 ISSUE 1 23 Feb 2023 OP-ED AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Artwork by Hafsa Ashfaq. Digital media. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Op-Ed United States Roe v Wade Reproductive Rights Legacies of Slavery Human Rights Abortion Access Low-Income Workers The Right to Contraception Liberate Abortion Latin American Green Wave National Network of Abortion Funds Gender Violence South Asian SOAR Internationalist Perspective Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. ON JUNE 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the constitutional right to abortions protected under the 1973 landmark ruling, Roe v. Wade . The decision, issued in a case concerning Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion, has opened the doors for dozens of states to take steps to ban it outright. As I’m writing this solidarity note, at least 15 states have abortion bans in effect: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. The prohibitions range from a complete ban on abortions to banning abortions at 18 weeks of pregnancy. These states are among the poorest in the country, with large populations of Indigenous, Black, and immigrant communities. In the absence of safe, timely, and affordable abortion care; people are forced to travel hundreds and thousands of miles to access medical care or carry pregnancies to term against their will. This is a gross violation of human rights. Abortion bans can be traced to the brutal legacies of slavery, where Black women were treated as sexual chattel. Hence, they are rooted in white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, anti-Black violence. Such racist laws deny systematically marginalized communities the right to control their bodies and futures. About 60% of people who need abortion care each year are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Against the backdrop of this country’s legacy of racism and discrimination, Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ communities, people with low incomes, and those living in rural areas tend to face greater barriers to quality health care, childcare, and job opportunities. Oriaku Njoku, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, shares: "This [abortion] is not something where it's either: make a choice to choose to be a parent or not to choose to be a parent. There are so many things like access to food, access to a living wage, access to insurance, your race, your gender, your ability to make money for your family." According to the World Health Organization, almost half of the 121 million pregnancies across the globe each year are unintended. Each year, over 44,000 people die from unsafe abortions, and millions more suffer serious, often permanent, injuries. Restricting access to abortion drives pregnant people to use unsafe methods. For example, Pakistan has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, but the lack of access to abortion care makes it one of the deadliest places to get an abortion. This much is clear: abortion access saves lives. This is why reproductive justice advocates have been fighting for the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, or not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. The reproductive justice framework calls for every possible effort—whether through policies, social services, and community relationships—to address intersecting oppressions, create alliances across identities, analyze power systems, and center the most marginalized among us. Reproductive justice allows us to understand access to abortion as a critical piece of economic, healthcare, and gender justice battles: the way we treat birthing people and families impacts how we build stronger and healthier communities. For example, the right to contraceptives only ensures that people can get a prescription for them. But for a low-wage worker who is uninsured, how can they afford to take a day off and pay for the contraceptives? By thinking outside of the rights framework—where we are only fighting for the right to abortion—reproductive justice acknowledges the socio-political and economic inequalities that are disproportionately faced by BIPOC communities. South Asian American communities in general and survivors in particular, live at the intersection of multiple oppressions which make the overall consequences of lack of abortion access, particularly grave. Without access to healthcare resources in the many languages spoken across South Asian diasporas, and culturally imposed shame and stigma around accessing reproductive healthcare, South Asian communities experience marginalization at multiple levels. Even apart from the lack of policies that support access to hospitals and clinics trusted by South Asian communities, there is simply no insurance for healthcare needs specific to these communities. Lack of such policies work as barriers to healthcare and reify the long-established history of racism and its many inequities. For South Asian survivors the consequences are even more grave. People in abusive relationships are far more vulnerable to sexual assault, birth control sabotage, reproductive coercion or control, and misinformation about their reproductive rights. In most cases, murder by an intimate partner is the leading cause of maternal death during pregnancy and the postpartum period, as mentioned in the SOAR Collective Statement . The Liberate Abortion—a coalition of over 150 member organizations—is currently one of the largest BIPOC-led reproductive justice and rights coalitions in the United States. Liberate Abortion was founded out of the realization that the struggle against the threat to abortion access cannot be fought by a single organization, healthcare provider, organizer, or donor. This is why the coalition focusses on community mobilization, electoral organizing, changing cultural narratives, federal outreach, and policy reform. The staff, leaders, and members coordinate with stakeholders such as movement partners in legal defense and practical service delivery spaces, cross-movement partners, funders, members of Congress, and the Biden administration on information sharing and strategy. Although the coalition solely focuses on abortion funds and clinics in the United States, frontline activists from the Latin American Green Wave movement have joined the coalition to share lessons from their campaigns to expand abortion access across the continent. In the last two years alone, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia have decriminalized or fully legalized abortions. The Supreme Court’s attack on the right to abortion access leaves several fundamental human rights open to contestation. These include the right to vote, racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and a host of other rights intertwined with the right to liberty protected through Roe v. Wade . As access to abortion gets further criminalized by politicians and companies that sell our data to anti-abortion lawmakers and legislators, privacy activists and lawmakers need to also shift their approach. According to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the past 15 years have seen a shocking spike in arrests and prosecutions for crimes related to stillbirths, miscarriages, and alleged drug and alcohol use during pregnancy. The legal advocacy and policy support group If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, documented over 61 cases that occurred between 2000 and 2020 in which people were criminally investigated or arrested for allegedly self-managing abortions or helping someone else get one. Only this year in August, Facebook gave Nebraska police access to a teen’s private messages which they used to prosecute her for getting an abortion. The fight for reproductive justice includes battles against surveillance and policing. These are the tools of the right wing to expand their control over bodily autonomy. For South Asian Americans this is a critical time to shift away from calls for increased policing to visionary organizing that is rooted in the desire to build safer communities. Some of the ways we can express solidarity are to get involved in volunteer services and mutual aid networks. Abortion fundraisers like the ARC-Southeast are coordinating funding and logistical support for people who need abortion access in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. For the South Asian & Indo-Caribbean diaspora, HEART to Grow is sustaining a reproductive justice fund for Muslims across America, while domestic violence organizations like API Chaya ally with abolitionist efforts that close youth jails across Seattle. The fight for reproductive justice must be both localized and nationalized—to aid and abet folks seeking abortion access, while electing prosecutors, judges, and elected representatives committed to the long-term strategy of ending criminalization, punishment, and harassment by the state, institutions, and individuals. Perhaps Roe was never enough to safeguard abortion rights or protect abortion access for all people. We are building a future in which abortion is liberated for all of us, no matter where we live or how much money we have, no matter our race, age, gender, or sexual orientation. We need to organize, build power, and create a country where our values are reflected in democracy. We will continue to provide life-saving care for those who need it the most, and we will continue fighting until every one of us has access to the care we need, when we need it, without stigma or fear. We need to develop networks of solidarity. ∎ RESOURCES : If you are a person who needs abortion care, reach out to a provider immediately . If you’re looking for an abortion provider, go to INeedAnA.com . Campaigns like Abortion On Our Own Terms are supporting folks with knowledge on self-managed abortions, while organizations like PlanCPills are distributing and providing information on how to access abortion pills online. We must all be vocal and support people who have abortions and providers who provide care every day. This means funding local abortion clinics to keep the clinics open, volunteering and donating to local abortion funds to ensure that people have support, funding, and access to care, telling your own abortion story, and listening deeply to the stories of people you love. DISPATCH Op-Ed United States FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • Experiments in Radical Design & Typography | SAAG

    BOOKS & ARTS Experiments in Radical Design & Typography Appropriating the predator-drone & other notes on the new design system. VOL. 2 ISSUE 1 12 Mar 2023 PRESENTLY AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 The display-face superimposed on the cartographic grid system it arose from. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Presently The Editors Design Disaster Aesthetics Drone Warfare Surveillance Regimes Iconography Textiles Benedict Anderson South Asia as a Term Cartography Colophon Rabindranath Tagore Affect Web Design Design Process Typography Indian Type Foundry TypeType Dinamo Head Study Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. How does a magazine like SAAG understand space & geography? How does it grapple with the many South Asian communities—those acknowledged as such, and those that aren't—to begin to identify the wrongs we must right from a long legacy of media that construed and continue to construe "South Asia" so narrowly? When I set out to design a whole new SAAG, these questions were on my mind. Unconsciously, material things—street signs we passed by, patterns we'd been looking at for years but noticed again for the first time—gave me some answers that buttress our current design system, allowing for a conversation within the team from many countries. These ideas came from my own subjective personal experiences, yes, but that intimacy I felt led all of us as a team to wonder: what might everyone else find intimate? How do we bring it all together? The design system is an expression of solidarity—finding commonality in what we all see or read; wear or draw—while admitting exception and difference, and also that this is, of course, an ongoing process. Disaster Timeline: Cover Artwork Our first issue allowed us to think about space on a broader level too. More specifically we asked: How does networked space see? Through the eyes of capital and the modern surveillance state—much like the seeker-head of a predator drone—the human subject has reached the zenith of abstraction. Humanity is now a set of data points, and collective struggles, in turn, simply distant blips on a radar. Visibility doesn't come easy. In an attention economy with content tethered to the whims of capital, only the profitable survive. Large-scale disasters cannibalize attention, obscuring the slow devastation occurring across regional, social, bodily, and psychic scales on a continuous loop. It’s a circular timeline. In a sense, the apparatus of surveillance defines the contour of strife: what better way to capture that present state of invisibility than to mimic how the predator drone sees the regions discussed in the issue? Thus, the cover art for Issue 1 by Mukul Chakravarthi attempts to capture the cold cartographies of collective strife through the aesthetics of the modern surveillance state. The appropriation is an affirmation of our editorial commitment to deeply human narratives that emerge in the form of rigorous local reporting but also, critically, in the aesthetic responses of struggle and dissent, many of which you will find in the issue. The custom display-face was derived from a grid system mapping the eight main cities—from Islamabad in the west to Naypyidaw in the east—that feature in the first issue. It was an exercise conceived to be just as spatial as it was typographic. The intention was to construct a display-face that gave form to regions that otherwise figured in the margins of the globalist imagination. Iconography The iconography is the foundation of Volume 2. I truly hope you come to remember these icons and the content and forms of creative work they represent. The process began with my own archival, oral history and mixed-media research, which led to a great deal of conversation and more findings from the whole design team. The iconography is inspired by textiles across many South Asian countries and communities. It is a visual representation that interweaves recurring patterns across geographies and peoples. Each icon is a recurring motif in textiles from seven or more contemporary South Asian nations, and countless communities within them. SAAG's general approach to "South Asia" is pertinent here. We deliberately does not construe "South Asia" specifically in terms of geography. This is because we recognize, as our archives indicate, that: 1. Diasporic communities originating in the subcontinent exist in countries as far east and as far west as any map will show. 2. "South Asia" is generally conceived of as countries within the subcontinent, but the history of its terminology is often nationalist, divisive, and problematic for many peoples even within the region's most populous country. As Benedict Anderson has argued, it is also a construction to some degree of the rise of area studies; its arbitrariness can be seen in its inconveniences: some countries in what is academically considered "Southeast Asia" share more historical, cultural, and linguistic similarities with those considered "South Asian", and vice versa.* For the purposes of our iconography, we researched motifs stretching from Laos to Iran, as well as the Caribbean. Typography & Colophon ​ Our web typography was also selected carefully. Our primary typeface, Social by Dinamo type foundry, reflects the playful, collaborative spirit of SAAG as a "multi-people, multi-width mega collaboration" itself. It's also a remarkably sturdy sans that allows us to be flexible: based on the theme of each issue, we want to use a new display font entirely. We hope it keeps you on your toes. The body text for the work we publish is set in Erode by Nikhil Ranganathan and Indian Type Foundry (ITF), a startlingly original, idiosyncratic and yet almost unobtrusive typeface that we greatly admire. Meanwhile, each issue of Volume 2 will use a different display typeface. For Issue 1, we chose the spiky and precise TT Ricks by TypeType. ​ Our colophon—conceived by Prithi Khalique and designed in many iterations and styles by Hafsa Ashfaq—is a nod to our print future, inspired by one of the works first cited when SAAG began: Rabindranath Tagore's painting Head Study , a work of dazzling ingenuity that provides the metaphorical architecture for our identity. Of all the decisions we made, this one came the easiest to us. A design system that coheres around our collective past feels best to embody our aspirations for the future: we cannot predict the future, but we can take stock from the conceptual frameworks our many contributors provide to us. Moving forward, the design system will move much like the issue artwork itself: fluidly adapting to best represent the radical potential of the present in its aesthetic form. Website Our new website is a complete overhaul, and a sharp contrast to the original SAAG website as well. We think fondly of what we made for Volume 1: its maximalist, wild, and mysteriously glitchy exterior paired with very serious work and dialogue. But if the eternal doom scroll has taught us anything, we are inundated with maximalist content. What we wanted was care, intentionality, attention, flexibility: an ease to the user experience that reflects the care we took to make every choice inspired by South Asian custom, movement, or labor. We hope that our new website—designed and developed by myself and Ammar Hassan Uppal, with help and feedback from editors and designers on the team alike—flows much more organically, whilst feeling both tactile and geometric. We felt that the digital space shouldn't distract from the ideas and concepts of the difficult material discussed in Issue 1 of Volume 2 as well as in the archives. It should enhance it. What you see is also a website intended to take on the spirit of the issue currently featured, adapting at each turn. At the same time, we wanted to inject a little whimsy into the experience: easter eggs sprinkled through the website, which we hope you'll find. We hope to evoke a more orderly and idea-focused experience of SAAG’s content, and challenge the dominant sense that the "avant-garde" need be synonymous with disorderly maximalism; instead, we eschewed both maximalism and minimalism—as well as the neo-Brutalist response to minimalist design—with a warmer color palette and approachable typography. In Volume 2 of SAAG, we hope to demonstrate that we take the intellectual and conceptual happenings and developments in the worlds of design, typography, web development etc. just as seriously as anything else. Stay tuned for forthcoming content and events on the many political-aesthetic challenges contemporary designers face, as well as how they understand, learn, teach, and reckon with the histories and legacies of design. Top of mind for us throughout this process was affect and emotion: how one might feel when one logs onto the website or reads one of our pieces? We do hope you feel welcomed . ∎ * Benedict Anderson, A Life Without Boundaries ( Verso , 2018) DISPATCH Presently The Editors FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • COVID-19 and Faith in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh | SAAG

    FEATURES COVID-19 and Faith in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh How disaster and religion intertwine for those in Rohingya refugee camps VOL. 2 ISSUE 1 27 Feb 2023 REPORTAGE AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Photograph courtesy of Abu Yousuf Shazid, depicting Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) hand washing station. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Reportage Cox's Bazar Rohingya Refugee Crisis Bangladesh COVID-19 Religion Faith Leaders Intimate Partner Violence Disaster & Faith International Law NGOs Internationalist Perspective Humanitarian Crisis Human Language Longform Literacy Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. COVID-19 IS directly impacting the most vulnerable section of society in Bangladesh—its Rohingya refugees—a community which narrowly survived genocide in their native Myanmar, now subjected to mass displacement in the region. Combined with the impact of Cyclone Amphan and Cyclone Yaas in 2020 and 2021 respectively, Bangladesh’s constant battle with the climate crisis is well-documented. The mass displacement and persecution, however, continue to impact the largely overlooked refugee population. Approximately 1.2 million Rohingya refugees have been living in the 27 camps in two sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar district since 2017. Late last year, there were state-led actions that alarmed both humanitarian and human rights groups. The Government of Bangladesh, in December 2020, began moving Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char, a secluded island without adequate healthcare infrastructure or protection against extreme weather events like severe cyclones and tidal surges. So far, more than 20,000 people have been moved, out of the planned 100,000 refugees to the low-lying silt island. Grappling with the effects of double displacement, initially from their home country and now being forcibly shifted from refugee camp to camp, coupled with the uncertainties about their legal status and insecurity over their future in their host country, the plight of the Rohingyas is a humanitarian crisis that shames humanity. Faith and Health of the Rohingya Refugees In 2020, several months of lockdown measures, put in place by the Government of Bangladesh to protect against COVID-19, led to a severe loss of livelihood for many of the country’s vulnerable and poor. In Cox’s Bazar, women-headed households, persons with disability, and elderly people have resorted to strategies that affect their health and well-being. Women and children are eating less nutritious foods and fewer meals in a day, reducing the quantities they eat. These harmful dietary practices are a result of their socio-economic conditions, especially loss of livelihoods and limited food relief during the COVID-19 crisis. It speaks of people on the brink, left to their own devices, and at the mercy of their faith. The Rohingya people are predominantly Muslim. Their community leaders are usually imams and muezzins leading prayers at mosques. As witnessed the world over, several COVID-19 conspiracies were at play. This emerged as the case with both Rohingya and Bengali communities, who turned to faith in trying and testing circumstances and in the face of uncertainty and scant information. These are usually the circumstances in which people who have lost all hope resort to religion. Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar too believed that COVID-19 was a punishment and a test of their faith. Disease and health, thus, became entwined with spirituality, religion, and other spheres of life, including financial struggle. For this article, we interviewed imams, muezzins, women faith actors, and local NGOs who were instrumental in raising awareness on COVID-19 preventive strategies, surveying 100 households from both the Bangladeshi host populations and Rohingya refugees in Camps 15 and 19 in Cox’s Bazar. At the inception of the pandemic, in the throes of fear and insecurity on the ground, there were numerous conspiracies about the government in Bangladesh, just like anywhere else in the world. During Jummah prayers, religious leaders who initially supported fatalistic notions about COVID-19 virus were encouraging people to wash their hands to maintain cleanliness, and to wear masks. In the face of uncertainty and scant information in the pandemic, both Rohingya and Bengali communities turned to their faith in trying and testing circumstances. In 2020, Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) set up a health outpost in Camp 19, and provided basic health services to the people living in the camps. The health staff assisted people with COVID-19-related measures and treatments. The DAM facility had referred 26 suspected cases—22 Rohingya members and 4 villagers—to the nearest hospital, where two positive cases were found amongst the Bengali villagers. The health outpost provided screenings for COVID-19 symptoms and referred them to the hospitals, while for the non-COVID-19 cases they provided treatments. As per the data provided to us by DAM, over 400 patients were treated, consisting of both Rohingya refugees and host community members. An official from DAM mentioned the following about the caseload: "As per health data, there were 367 positive cases and 10 deaths amongst Rohingyas across 32 camps. Within Camp 19, there were five positive cases in refugees and three hospital staff tested positive. Approximately 5,000 positive cases in the host community." This must be viewed within the larger context of limited facilities for testing within the camps in Cox’s Bazar. A medical doctor noted that only 25,000 had been tested so far out of 1.2 million people as of January 2021. Specifically in Camps 15 and 19, there are no sentinel sites. Inside a Rohingya Refugee Camp (RRC) Masjid. Courtesy of Abu Yousuf Shazid Another NGO, Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK), undertook an initiative for public health messaging, generating awareness and providing timely information and discussions with around 700 Rohingya community members. They employed an interesting approach of using public speakers and microphones in the mosques, as well as door-to-door campaigns for providing information on COVID-19 preventive measures. They provided training to community and faith leaders, dispelling some of the rumours and misinformation that were rampantly spreading in these communities. With the collision of science and faith, there were interesting ways in which Rohingyas resisted and adapted to the new circumstances. From an outsider's perspective, it appeared that faith leaders were fatalistic, which percolated amongst other community members participating in our group discussions. Rohingya men and women were concerned that the elderly were susceptible because they did not remain “clean,” presumably concerning their personal hygiene. Many people shared that initially they had lots of misinformation and misbeliefs, believing COVID-19 was an act of God to punish the non-religious. Depending on who their community leaders were, such views would be either contested or encouraged, especially during prayertime. While there is a strong feeling that the pandemic is religiously ordained, a significant proportion of the people still believe it to be as a response to their sins; or nature's response to man's cruelty, or even due to a lack of belief in Islam. There were strong associations between cleanliness and the disease. Several rumours emerged about what causes COVID-19, just as it was commonly observed in countries in the Global South as well as Global North. Qualitative data indicates people received COVID-19 information through social media, public spaces like tea stalls, religious gatherings, and meetings at mosques. While there is a strong feeling that the pandemic is religiously ordained, a significant proportion of the people still believe it to be a response to their sins; or as nature's response to man's cruelty, or even due to a lack of belief in Islam . It is essential to note that these fatalist attitudes were the result of a combination of misinformation, manipulation, and inappropriate channels of information that the Rohingyas had limited access to. In the absence of large-scale humanitarian support, abandoned by their host and persecuted by their native country, the Rohingyas largely relied on their faith to tide over challenging circumstances. Hearing their stories about the painful and arduous journey from Rakhine state to Bangladesh, it is remarkable that these communities continue to thrive and survive in the face of challenging and dire circumstances. They relied on their community leaders, unelected Rohingya called “majhis,” for information and guidance to not only make this journey to Bangladesh but also manoeuvre the flailing political, administrative, and governance structures in the camps. Religious actors & women leaders With the merging of faith and public health, a key group of actors emerged as powerful and influential in changing beliefs and attitudes about COVID-19. Imams and muezzins played a crucial role in promoting healthcare in the Rohingya community, and several humanitarian NGOs relied on these religious leaders to promote preventive messages on COVID-19. Within the Bangladeshi community, the imam is a leader of the community revered for their exemplary adherence to faith. Imams in the Rohingya community play a similar role, and thus it is widely accepted that an imam’s verdict and messages about COVID-19 are sincere and trustworthy. Majhi, although originally a term used to refer to the leader who helped Rohingya refugees flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh, was also the name of the camp in-charge in Cox’s Bazar. The majhi system was initially established by the Bangladeshi authorities to manage the influx of refugees in 2017, but over the years it became an administrative position elected without participation and representation of the Rohingya communities. In effect, majhi were no longer the traditional leaders or elders of the Rohingya communities, and they neither reflected nor represented the voices, needs, and aspirations of these displaced groups. Several NGOs trained and addressed misconceptions held by the imams and muezzins and enlisted their support in delivering COVID-19 messaging during prayers. Interestingly, some imams married scientific facts with religious edicts. A Rohingya teacher said: "Lots of people live here and it is difficult to manage them. If any message and information are needed to deliver to the people, the leaders act as the main role. For NGOs and other officials, it is not possible to reach all people. The leaders also discuss different issues with the officials." Religious gatherings, especially jummah/Friday sermons called by the imam, appear to be the best source of information for the masses. A woman leader, who actively participated in the DSK NGO’s training programmes, noted that every Friday at the time of prayer, the imam discussed how we could be safe from the coronavirus. However, since women do not usually go to the mosques, those who attended the training from DSK would share what they learnt with other women near their homes. She also shared that since schools were closed due to lockdown measures in 2020, they lost out on a vital and reliable source of information. They had to pay approximately 100 takas ($1) per month for school, hence many could not afford going to school. A COVID-19 DSK awareness poster in a refugee camp. Courtesy of Abu Yousuf Shazid There were other information sources that were reported as the highly trusted and least trusted information sources for COVID-19: radios, television, posters, billboards, social media channels, and websites. People relied on social actors from both health and religious institutions, such as community health workers, majhis, imams, madrassa teachers, traditional healers, and members of the Tablighi Jamaat. Some depended on their friends, neighbours, and community health events for health-related information. Of these, community health workers and faith leaders such as majhis, imams, and madrassa teachers emerged as the top three sources of information as reported. Imams and muezzins were considered as trustworthy by the community members. The majhi system was initially established by the Bangladeshi authorities to manage the influx of refugees in 2017 but over the years it became an administrative position elected without participation and representation of the Rohingya communities. In effect, majhi were no longer the traditional leaders or elders of the Rohingya communities, and they neither reflected nor represented the voices and aspirations of these displaced groups. Rohingya members were skeptical about messages received from posters and radio as these did not explain much of the instructions they had to follow. Many times, these were in languages—English or Bengali—they were not able to read or comprehend easily. The lack of educational and literacy programmes for Rohingya refugees is pivotal to understanding Rohingya communities. Rohingya refugees are not allowed to read and write in the local Bengali language. There are no integration programmes available for refugees in Bangladesh, particularly for the Rohingyas. Although the Rohingya language, Ruáingga , has some affinity to the Chittagonian dialect spoken in Cox’s Bazar, many refugees are unable to read and write in Bengali. The refugee members have poor literacy rates due to systemic persecution and lack educational opportunities in Myanmar, and continued negligence in Bangladesh. The access to and continuation of education for Rohingya girls is very limited. Parental attitudes towards education for girls reportedly shift once girls turn ten years old as societal norms may allow girl children to be married. With limited economic means young girls are not enrolled into education programmes run by NGOs in the camps. Their educational attainment levels are well below average after having fled genocide and war in Myanmar, a symptom of the abject exclusion of the Rohingyas from education in both host and home countries. Male teachers provided a different perspective on how religion was limited in its capacity to counter the global coronavirus pandemic. One of the teachers who was interviewed clarified that there is nothing related to COVID-19 in the Quran or Hadith, although Islam asks everyone to stay clean. He went on to reflect how teachers were “trying” to unlearn misinformation that they gathered through various mediums like social media or others. The madrassa teachers also had a role to play in the COVID-19 response. Firstly, teachers from schools or madrassas are very respected people in Rohingya society, an intellectual privilege that allows them an ease in delivering their messages. Rohingya exclusion from society, education, and other opportunities has fed into cynicism over science and outsiders, and they heavily rely on local actors and leaders whom they trust rather than external social workers. While the teachers are involved in the faith-based committee, they also have access to mobile phones which means they can access updated information. Their involvement in the training and awareness programmes has helped NGOs to build trust with refugee community members. This process has been capitalized to deliver COVID-19 preventive messages to the people, through teachers who have a unique way of perceiving and explaining scientific ideas with religion to counter misinformation amongst the people. Rohingya refugees are not allowed to read and write in the local Bengali language. There are no integration programmes available for refugees in Bangladesh particularly for the Rohingyas. Although the Rohingya language, Ruáingga , has some affinity to the Chittagonian dialect spoken in Cox’s Bazar, many refugees are unable to read and write in Bengali. Despite religious leaders being male figures, there were local women leaders who actively participated in religious activities. Although women leaders have lesser authority than their traditional male counterparts, Rohingya women can reach out to women leaders easily. Imams and muezzins did not interact directly with women and children because their religious responsibilities were largely centred around the mosque. An Arabic teaching room in an RRC Masjid. Courtesy of Abu Yousuf Shazid Since women did not have access to religious and educational spaces, they were more likely to have untested misbeliefs and attitudes towards COVID-19. Some women leaders in the Rohingya communities were included in NGO training and were enlisted for house-to-house visits and providing information on COVID-19 preventive steps. However, their numbers are few—most women leaders continue to believe and share their misinformation about COVID-19. For instance, a 35-year-old female leader (name withheld) explained her understanding about the cause of COVID-19 as being an “order from God,” and that we need to keep ourselves “neat and clean” in order to prevent ourselves from being infected. They have little access to information, with limited to no educational opportunities, and are unable to voice their opinions and apprehensions in relief and awareness programmes. Such misinformation is, of course, not limited to Rohingya or Bangladeshi women. In order to stop the flow, the government, humanitarian actors, and media will have to take steps to rule out every possible rumor with scientific fact. This should be accessible and available in several languages, written and orally presented widely. This reveals the fact that women are less considered for group and organized meetings; they remain as passive receptors of information passed onto them by their husbands. This provides fertile ground for the spread of misinformation and misconceptions, often used to suppress women further in such isolating circumstances. There were physical and social barriers that determined the uptake of COVID-19 preventive messages, such as low literacy levels, cultural and linguistic differences between host and refugee communities, and no access to basic health, educational, and livelihood opportunities. Local faith and community leaders can play a vital role in addressing vaccine hesitancy and cultural biases related to vaccine uptake amongst both Bangladeshi and Rohingya communities. Since women did not have access to religious and educational spaces, they were more likely to have untested misbeliefs and attitudes towards COVID-19. Some women leaders in the Rohingya communities were included in NGO training and were enlisted for house-to-house visits and providing information on COVID-19 preventive steps. However, their numbers are few. Gender experts are also alarmed at the increased rates of domestic violence during the pandemic. There have been numerous cases of intimate partner violence against women isolated with abusive partners. Women’s responsibilities and workload were overburdened as men were barred from going out during lockdown. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on women’s rights and their access to justice. There are strict restrictions imposed on them, which became stricter during the pandemic: limited movement outside the home and adherence to follow instructions. Several rumours reported by Rohingyas were shared by a senior official from DAM NGO during a telephone interview. "Rohingya people were scared. They used to say: 'If we go to the health post, we will be sent to Bishan Char island, or we may go missing. We may even be killed.” The official interpreted these rumours as symbolic of a genuine mistrust between the health system and refugee populations. However, they reflect the harsh realities of the Rohingyas who have no one to turn to and who fear further persecution from authorities, constantly coming across government initiatives that push them further into destitution. The Future of Humanitarianism in Cox’s Bazar No country was prepared to face such a pandemic, and yet, for persecuted communities like the Rohingyas, these uncertainties and health emergencies are symptomatic of a larger phenomenon that isolates, negates, and further reproduces the injustice and unfair conflict that they have faced not only with the government authorities. Misinformation and mistrust is not a unique phenomenon to the Rohingyas but it is important to unpack why people are peddling conspiracy theories instead—lack of information, spread of disinformation campaigns on social media and the Internet, and politicians and society leaders questioning the severity of the pandemic while silencing the needs and voices of Rohingya refugees. On September 29, 2021, Mohibullah, 46, chair of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Several human rights and NGO workers have criticized this killing as not only silencing Rohingya voices, but also refusing to have a dialogue with the refugees for their safe future, either in Bangladesh or in a safe return to Myanmar. Many believe that the non-state actor Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an armed group present in the camp, is responsible for this violent and gruesome murder. With disarray in camps and limited resources from humanitarian actors, violence has become rampant, resulting in murders and abductions. It is the responsibility of government authorities to ensure the protection of people in the camps, including refugees, activists, and humanitarian workers from both the Rohingya and local community, many of whom have shared concerns about their safety. Any humanitarian effort should build on an understanding of the underlying drivers of conflict, violence, and issues affecting social cohesion within the local Bangladeshi communities in Cox’s Bazar. Social cohesion factors such as a sense of social or group identity, sense of community, and attachment to place can be important adaptation drivers when considering how populations respond to public health and other crises. These factors, together with community-based leadership, including faith-based leadership, can play an important role in the development and increasing social bonds central to Rohingya capacities when confronting COVID-19 and a range of other hazards. Mapping out power relations and structures within and beyond the Rohingya community could help meaningfully engage with the persecuted minority. The battle for citizenship and statehood for Rohingyas is long and dates to colonial history and negligence by Burmese authorities. While these groups await their uncertain future, it is the responsibility and mandate of neighbouring countries like India and Bangladesh to be proactive and participatory in their approaches to the needs of this population. While the humanitarian world debates whether Myanmar is culpable for the genocide of the Rohingyas, their day-to-day needs and lived realities can no longer be brushed under the carpet or silenced through more violence. ∎ DISPATCH Reportage Cox's Bazar FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • The Pre-Partition Indian Avant-Garde | SAAG

    COMMUNITY The Pre-Partition Indian Avant-Garde Art historian Partha Mitter in conversation with Editor Kamil Ahsan VOL. 1 25 Aug 2020 INTERVIEW AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Watch the interview on YouTube or IGTV. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Interview Art History Avant-Garde Origins 1922 Bauhaus Exhibition Rabindranath Tagore Colonialism Modernism Ernst Gombrich Eric Hobsbawm Primitivism Edward Said Ramkinkar Baij Bombay Progressive Artists Satyajit Ray Student Movements Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. South Asian artists often deny the past of our own avant-garde. This is predicated on the nationalist myth of cultural purity fabricated in the 19th century. But if you deny history, you can't do anything. RECOMMENDED: The Triumph of Modernism: India's Avant-Garde 1922-1947 by Partha Mitter (University of Chicago Press, 2007) DISPATCH Interview Art History FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

  • Musical Genre as a Creation of Racial Capitalism | SAAG

    COMMUNITY Musical Genre as a Creation of Racial Capitalism Musician Vijay Iyer in conversation with Associate Editor Kamil Ahsan VOL. 1 8 Nov 2020 INTERVIEW AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: AUTHOR Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 Heading 5 AUTHOR Heading 5 Watch the interview on YouTube or IGTV. SHARE Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Interview Jazz Criticism Music Music Criticism Race & Genre Black Radical Traditions Amiri Baraka Roscoe Mitchell Racial Capitalism Avant-Garde Origins Village Vanguard Post-George Floyd Moment Historicity Black Speculative Musicalities Insurgence in Jazz Genre Fluidity Critical Improvisation Studies The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition Fred Moten Charles Mingus Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. Add paragraph text. Click “Edit Text” to customize this theme across your site. You can update and reuse text themes. We go through these cycles of the mainstream press declaring jazz dead, then rediscovering it. There's a savior! That narrative's really problematic. It excludes and erases countless Black musicians who have been at the vanguard for decades. RECOMMENDED: Uneasy (ECM, 2021): Vijay Iyer with Tyshawn Sorey and Linda May Han Oh. DISPATCH Interview Jazz FICTION & POETRY Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5 Date Authors Heading 5

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