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South Asia: Looking Back At 2009

The year 2009 is ending and its time to retrospect how the year has been for the South Asian region. In a two-part review we will look back at some of the major events which took place this year in the South Asian countries seen through the eyes of the citizen journalists. Special thanks to the South Asia authors of Global Voices for their insight and hard work all around the year.

The year was tough for South Asia as the global recession affected people of this region too. The populous region is a source of many migrant workers in the middle east and other places in the world. We saw many migrant workers returning to their homeland as they lost their jobs and saw opportunities diminishing. Energy was a major concern as some countries had to cope with power shortage and rolling blackouts.

Bangladesh

Although the history of Bangla blogging is relatively short, the bloggers could achieve a milestone. This year about 50 books had been published by bloggers targeting the Ekushey Book Fair in February. We also had an interesting post where we looked at Bangladesh through the eyes of the expatriate bloggers.

On February 25th morning the news broke that a mutiny was in progress inside Bangladesh Rifles (BDR – paramilitary border security force) head office. Amidst rumors and media attentions citizen journalists jumped in to cover the developments and provided important perspectives.

Ack Ack Gun on Satmasjid, Road 7A. Copyright Drishtipat and used with permission

Ack Ack Gun on Satmasjid, Road 7A. Copyright Drishtipat and used with permission

The mutiny ended tragically as it left as many as 148 people dead or missing including many army officers, which left many questions unanswered. In March YouTube and File Sharing Sites were briefly Blocked in Bangladesh in an attempt to block a leaked tape containing the audio clip of the meeting of the Prime minister and the aggrieved army officers who were protesting the massacre of army officers during the BDR mutiny.

Bangladeshi and Indian Netizens took to the task of analyzing the adverse impact on the nature by the proposed Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project in India (near Bangladesh border) and the miseries it will bring to the local people. Online campaigns were launched to protest the construction of the dam. Bloggers questioned the transparency of the process of negotiation between the two governments regarding Tipaimukh and discussed about hidden agendas.

In November pressure from Chinese embassy prompted the local authorities to close down a photo exhibition on Tibet in Dhaka.

Bhutan

What is Bhutan? One camp glorifies Bhutan as something close to heaven and the other claims that it is practicing ethnic cleansing by driving out Nepali Lhotsampa minorities. Our new Bhutanese author Sonam Ongmo highlights Bhutanese citizen media to find out the truth.

Landscape of Bhutan. Image by Flickr user Jmhullot, used under a creative commons license

Landscape of Bhutan. Image by Flickr user Jmhullot, used under a creative commons license

The Gross National Happiness (GNH) concept was originally coined in Bhutan in 1972. However, Bhutanese bloggers share their views on how the concept seems to be taken more seriously in places other than Bhutan.

India

Election:

This year marked the 15th Lok Sabha (parliament) Elections in India and citizen journalists were up to the task since the start of the political campaign. More interestingly major political parties used different online campaigns for the first time and bloggers reacted to these campaigns (BJP, INC).

screenshot of a Congress ad showing on Bollywood Frames, an entertainment blog.

screenshot of a Congress ad showing on Bollywood Frames, an entertainment blog.

It was indeed India's first digital election. Global Voices special coverage on India's elections dissected the campaigns in multiple angles, like the analysis of the impact of socially conscious corporate campaigns and how civil society groups in India used digital tools to run voter registration and transparency campaigns in the run up to the elections.

Bloggers weighed in with their predictions and analysis of opinion polls and how celebrity power impacted the elections. They have also investigated the black money trails of the politicians.

This time around we saw the the advent of citizen-driven election monitoring – Vote report based on Ushahidi engine and a plethora of online election resources.

Equipped with all these the month long election was closely watched by the citizen journalists and after the polls they questioned lower voter turnouts and efficacy of campaigns.

When the results were declared it emerged that the voters voted for no change. Indian Twittersphere was quite aloud in reacting to the developments as the results surfaced.

Online Campaigns:

This year we also saw some successful online campaigns on various social issues being launched in India. At the beginning of the year many Indians were irked by the news that a group of young women in Mangalore in the southern state of Karnataka were attacked by Hindu vigilantes in a pub (bar). Soon an online campaign emerged by a Facebook group that planned a sassy, bold move to send pink colored women’s panties to the Ram Sena party as a ‘Valentine's gift’. This non violent protest was called the Pink Chaddi (underwear) campaign.

The above video shows a pile of underwear and the love letters to the Hindu vigilantes.

This year the first TEDIndia event took place and the bloggers were excited about it. Read their take on the event.

Other notable online campaigns included the greatest driving challenge and the sapling project.

Human Rights and Freedom Of Speech:

Chyetanya Kunte, an Indian blogger based in the Netherlands, was silenced by legal threats for criticizing a TV reporter for using sensationalism in her report during the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Shiv Shena, a far right political party had sued a 19 year old Indian netizen who criticized Shiv Sena in a social networking site.

The Indian state of Manipur was in chaos after pictures of an unarmed 27-year old, being shot and killed by the police surfaced. Citizen journalists criticized the state and the media for ignoring this issue.

On the other hand there was a triumph of human rights as an Indian court ruling decriminalized gay sex and a blogger termed the day of the ruling as a big day in the history of independent India.

Culture & Religion:

Slumdog Millionaire, a British film based on India become the buzz of Indian bloggers as it had won four Golden Globe awards and was nominated for ten categories at the Oscars. This film sparked debates about how it shows life in India's slums, and the attraction it holds for foreigners. But that did not stop the movie to sweep the Oscars with win in 8 categories.

There was an informative post explaining Durga Puja and its rituals.

Bidding Goddess Durga farewell until next year. Photo by Aparna Ray

Bidding Goddess Durga farewell until next year. Photo by Aparna Ray

In the next part of this series we will look at Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Please stay tuned.

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