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History, uploaded: Crowdsourcing a South Asian archive of memory | Arts and Culture

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Can a sepia-tone photograph capture hues of identity, longing, nostalgia and home?

Consider this. It is the spring of 1982. Twenty-five-year-old Tahzeeb has just landed in Riyadh after taking her maiden flight from Pakistan to reunite with her husband Nasir who works at the US embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Shortly after she arrives, Nasir has a novel idea, to take a portrait shot of the two of them.

As he sets up the tripod, his eyes trace her silhouette sitting on the ground, mind lost in thought. He wonders if she is thinking about her journey, the family she left behind – a distant identity – to join him in the strangeness of this new place. Home, which was in the streets of East Pakistan, had moved across city, country, and continent, just like that, for them. He kneels to ask her to look at the camera – and that was when the device’s timer went off and captured the duo looking at each other. Pensive, quiet, powerful.

Nearly three decades later, their daughter Israa, 33, a Pakistani-Canadian, looks at this half-faded photograph and wonders about her Baba and Mama’s journey from Pakistan to the Middle East. What did identity, belonging, and home mean for them? She poses this thought to the world – as a postscript to this picture – through the Instagram account Brown History, a veritable ode to artefacts like this photograph.

“A lot of people say that the past doesn’t matter – and perhaps, it doesn’t in many ways,” Israa reflects on what inspired her to share this moment and musing.

“But learning the small details of the lives of your parents or grandparents humanises them … It forces you to look at them like peers almost, people with hopes and dreams, people who struggled, people who loved. It allows you to see your family in a different way … that creates a closeness and empathy that wasn’t there before.”

‘History rewritten by the vanquished’

A compilation of this familiarity and human expression finds home on Brown History, a crowdsourced collective that started in March 2019. Founder Ahsun Zafar, a Canadian national, wanted to humanise history – half-remembered anecdotes, fading family albums, treasured tales – whatever shape or form it bore. More than a thousand submissions and almost two years later, the platform now has a community of more than 488,000 people, all tasked with telling and re-telling lesser-known stories and lives.

“There is a common saying that history is written by the victors. If that is the case, then Brown History is history rewritten by the vanquished,” Ahsun says, echoing the bio of the page.

He is not alone in this mission. Platforms like Daak Vaak and Museum of Material Memory, along with a host of other region and culture-specific social circles, are engaging in a digital tryst with time and memory. They become unwavering lenses into the past, of people and places.

Onaiza Drabu and Prachi Jha, co-founders of Daak Vaak [Courtesy of Daak Vaak]

Together, they capitalise on modern storytelling techniques to transform oral history into crowdsourced archives, straddling the translucent line between personal and shared history. Individual stories inherited across generations take the form of reflective narratives and crystallised visuals. Notably, the immersion happens both ways: readers jump through lands and centuries, tracing intricate epochal shifts.

“The idea behind Daak Vaak was to expand our cultural vocabulary to integrate local ideas and references,” founders Prachi Jha and Onaiza Drabu told Al Jazeera. Prachi, 34, hails from New Delhi, India and runs a science education NGO in Geneva; Onaiza, 31, is a digital consultant based out of Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir. They formed an alliance in 2017 to create the newsletter-turned-social-media-platform Daak Vaak (Hindi for Post and Talk) in hopes of preserving and reviving literature and art from the South Asian subcontinent.

“We felt like our education and upbringing had left a huge gap in our understanding of the ideas, people and movements that have shaped the culture of South Asia.” It now has a subscriber list of more than 100,000 people.

Keen to extract impressions from the subcontinent is the Museum of Material Memory, started by school friends Aanchal Malhotra and Navdha Malhotra (they are not related). Both are from New Delhi, and their families are partition survivors who moved to independent India from Pakistan after 1947.

The project is an extension of Aanchal’s book, Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory, which outlines the stories behind intimate objects carried by refugees of the partition. The idea mutated into a digital platform as a response to the overwhelming interest, prompting her to collaborate with Navdha and craft a space dedicated to matter and meaning.

A small brass box Sahiba’s grandmother Jagdeesh Kaur Bhatia used to keep a gold necklace and pair of earrings in [Sahiba Bhatia for Museum of Material Memory]

“People from across the subcontinent – and from the diaspora across the border – could submit stories about the objects that have existed in their families for generations, and we can all celebrate our historical materiality, no matter how mundane it might be,” they say. The result is a repository of emotionally and historically charged artefacts dated until the 1970s.

A bridge to the past

When Anviti Suri, based in Nagpur, India, first came across the Museum of Material Memory, she felt a powerful urge to contribute something. Her quest unfolded as follows: she asked around in her family about old objects with interesting historical connections; her grandmother quenched this curiosity by telling her about a beautiful golden necklace she inherited from her mother.

“There’s something about the process of talking about an object that brings up details that wouldn’t come up otherwise. All the events and stories associated with the object come up, and not just one singular event,” she muses reflectively, referring to the history the necklace had borne witness to. Anviti’s grandmother received it at the age of 12 when she was getting married. This was a time when India and Pakistan were still one, and both of Anviti’s grandparents can trace their families to areas that are now on the Pakistani side of the border. “I grew up on stories of the Partition,” Anviti says. She went on to contribute another story for the page, one about a pistol manufactured in 1903 that her grandfather bought from a police officer.

Her desire to contribute to the platform was simple: It gave her a sense of pride. “We did not have any documentation of what the family had been through, where they came from. So writing this piece gave me an opportunity to start building a family archive of sorts.”

A pistol manufactured in 1903, belonging to Anviti’s grandfather is now a part of his legacy [Anviti Suri for the Museum of Material Memory]

Other objects that found a home on the platform include a postcard from 1947 with a stamp of a newly-carved Pakistan, frayed books with notes in the margin, brass crockery passed on as heirlooms, souvenirs from World War I trenches in the shape of wooden boxes. All resound with human emotion and social condition.

“Material memory in itself works in mysterious ways,” Aanchal and Navdha explain. “We surround ourselves with things and put parts of ourselves in them. It hides in the folds of clothes, among old records, inside boxes of inherited jewellery, between the yellowing pages of old books, in the cracks of furniture and the stitches of frayed, embroidered handkerchiefs. It merges into our surroundings, it seeps into our years, it remains quiet, accumulating the past like layers of dust, and manifests itself in the most unlikely scenarios, generations later.”

“The Museum focuses not on capital H histories, but small h histories – oral histories, quiet histories. Those that require interviewing family and loved ones, or introspection of an intimate nature.”

How memory trickles through generations is a reminder of what has been lost, but also what remains. When Hiam Amani, an American with Bangladeshi ancestry, found an old photo of her aunt, a freedom fighter during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971, she thought it would make a good addition to Brown History’s page. She had heard the stories before: her aunt was a student at Dhaka University, had become a political leader, spent a lifetime advocating for the preservation of Bangladeshi culture, and witnessed the birth of Bangladesh. Some 40 years later, Hiam called her aunt to hear more about the picture before submitting it to Brown History.

“This conversation was the first time as an adult that I truly got to hear the details and understand this history that is so significant to the birth of Bangladesh … She spoke on the injustices and inequality and the struggle of feeling like an outsider in your own country at the time.” Hearing these stories more than a learning exercise, it was a front-row seat to watching people live their stories and taking note of how legacies shape up. Hiam saw in the picture a reflection of her aunt, her nation’s history, and herself. Nothing could feel that powerful.

For Hiam, this was a chance to reconnect with her aunt, as well as the culture and heritage she had only heard about. A couple of weeks after her conversation, Hiam’s aunt passed away. “Her death was completely sudden and unexpected and I am forever grateful to Brown History for not only highlighting my family’s history, but preserving it.”

An exploration of the present

A similar exercise in exploration is arduously materialising at Daak Vaak, where relatively unknown or forgotten pieces of literature, artwork and ideas are shared every Sunday in the form of digital postcards. The imagery is faithful to that of a real postcard: a characteristic ochre palate descending on a crinkled landscape sheet, bearing a stamp on the top right corner ready to land in mailboxes.

While Daak Vaak started as a newsletter and not an archive, Prachi and Onaiza recall, almost four years of weekly posts have transformed it into one carrying obscure literature and art sourced from the subcontinent.

In July 2020, Ravleen, a regular visitor to the page, found storied Indian novelist and poet Amrita Pritam’s poem, Mera Pata. The poem left her with a curious feeling: how accessible is Punjabi literature (of which Pritam is a stalwart)?

The next Daak (post) brought a portrait linked to Assamese poetry. “It made me think about the representation of Indigenous and Indian writers in the mainstream.” Daak Vaak for her became a treasure trove of lost literature.

Assam-based Das found Bangla literature, circa 1973, along with short handwritten notes on the title pages, in his parent’s dresser. The books ranged from Tagore’s seminal literary treatise, Sahityer Pathe, to Gour Kishore Ghosh’s 1969 revolutionary drama, Sagina Mahato [Shubham Das for Museum of Material Memory]

“It’s surprising and sad that I had never explored them enough,” she says. The vacuum sparked something in her, prompting her to translate Punjabi literature to English and submit it to platforms like Daak Vaak itself.

“It felt like something that needed to be done. These poems are beautiful and need to be read by more people.”

Other fragments of cultural wisdom in Daak Vaak’s repository look something like this: intimate portrayals of Indian self-taught cartoonist Mario Miranda, making of literary doyen Rabindranath Tagore’s oeuvre, capturing the friendship and animosity between literary stalwarts Ismat Chughtai and Manto through lost essays. It is textured life that slipped through the cracks of time and mortality, now revived with rigorous research. Prachi and Onaiza hope that people see this as “an archive or repository of South Asian culture and a testament and homage to our shared cultural heritage.”

A community-in-making

Images and posts on these platforms often prompt conversations about identity and roots. Last year, Australia-based Jessica Grover was scrolling through Instagram when she came across a picture of an “Om” tattoo on a gentleman her grandfather’s age; the tattoo struck her because she had grown up looking at it on her grandfather’s wrist too. Serendipitously, the last name of the person who posted the image was the same as hers: it turns out, the person was her distant cousin, the two shared a great-great-grandparent.

“His granddad and mine were from the same part of Punjab which now resides in Pakistan. The family lost touch after the separation of India and Pakistan,” she says. Jessica recalls the excitement in her grandfather’s voice when she told him about this discovery; this was his cousin he played with as a child, with whom he had had no contact for nearly 65 years.

“It’s almost like a window into a different time and seeing how things were. Especially if the particular story speaks to you personally or is a part of your own history, the experience of finding something like it is unparalleled.”

Founder Ahsun nods in agreement and says this is not a rare occurrence. He recalls a photo shared some time ago about a young man’s grandfather surviving Partition. Another woman, recognising the last name of the contributor and the name of the village, realised that he was her grandfather’s cousin with whom he had lost contact because of Partition.

“Brown History is more of a community. It is a bustling place full of energy and wonder,” Ahsun says.

A postcard published this year, revisiting the 1960s when the French government commissioned a Pakistani artist to illustrate Camus’s The Stranger [Courtesy of Daak Vaak]

At other times, communities do what is intrinsic to their nature: support and uplift. The founders of Daak Vaak note how users often engage with prompts posted on the platform or send each other poetry. The readers also valiantly take on trolls. “Trolls in comments, luckily enough, we don’t have to deal with, because our readers get there first,” they say jokingly.

Anything viewed from the prism of memory, they all note, will be multidimensional and manifold in representations. When Israa submitted the photograph of her parents, she wasn’t seeking a tangible return. But there was an awareness that deep within her story, and that of others, live spaces where man-made borders dissolve.

“Every family has a story, and that’s the thread that binds us. We all carry similar stories within us, and especially when it’s traumatic, we think we’re alone in that,” she explains.

Israa knows of the Museum of Material Memory and finds this idea well resonated in their digital archive.

“When stories about domestic violence or immigration, or Partition-related traumas, or love, are shared – people see themselves in them. That’s the power of community, of feeling like you’re part of a larger narrative.”

A modern way of storytelling

Platforms like these are increasingly occupying the internet, symbolising the very purpose of their creation: that history, personal and shared, is multidimensional. It is an unspoken but concerted movement to democratise history and share narratives ageing on the sidelines.

Their appeal was organic: through word of mouth, social media sharing, random bouts of scrolling. Ahsun recalls how Brown History once got a shoutout from actor Riz Ahmed. The culture of remembering then flew wide open; reeling in volleys of identities, formats, substance.

But these platforms are more than their subscribers, comments, likes, or any metrics. Social media, as the powerhouse of this movement, does plenty to revolutionise cultural legacy. The advantages are apparent: it is accessible, inclusive, engaging and immediate in its appeal.

It not only offers uninhibited access to diverse stories, Navdha Malhotra explains, but also tacitly extends ownership to the contributor in telling their personal story, and thereby carving a place for themselves in history.

A postcard detailing the life and identity of M F Husain, whose legacy is as interesting as his art [Courtesy of Daak Vaak]

“The immediate shareability also augments our borderless approach, wherein an object in a home in Pakistan can be read about and viewed in homes in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, or even the diaspora. This almost always leads to more stories being unearthed. For our writers, there is also a sense of ownership when the story is published.”

Brown History’s Ahsun concurs. “Thanks to social media, regular people can tell their history from their perspective and their stories and cultures are no longer bound by gatekeepers.” Brick and mortar museums exist as analogue platforms, controlled by a small group of people, giving them a lot of control to decide what is on display and to present the exhibits in their own way. Social media, on the other hand, is free of these constrictions.

With this thought, the moral ambiguity of who gets to tell their stories withers away, leaving behind an unequivocal answer: the people themselves. This also allows platforms to bring about the nuances and complexity of communities, ethnicities, and nationalities instead of compressing them into reductive packages.

“The notion that there are people who are ‘voiceless’ is wrong,” Ravleen notes. “Everyone has a voice, and I hope this platform can help amplify it,” she says of Daak Vaak.

As faithful a friend the internet has been to them, the pitfalls of a booming internet presence are fairly conspicuous.

If history is layered, can anyone fully, faithfully communicate the complexity within each story? “History is so complex and layered, especially in South Asia,” Ahsun notes. “I think my biggest challenge is that my path to knowledge requires me to make mistakes and to be able to grow from them. However, the internet isn’t always the most forgiving place and with more eyes on my posts comes a greater fear of making mistakes.”

A postcard Saalem’s grandfather, who hailed from Karachi, gave him. It dates back to the Partition when a newly created civil service in Pakistan used Indian postcards and ‘Pakistan’ was stamped on top of the image of King George VI [Saalem Humayun for the Museum of Material Memory]

Even a well-rounded story has a defined radius that leaves behind tricky terrain. All of these converge into instances of social media backlash, questioning versions and interpretations of the past, and calling the veracity of memory into question.

Other concerns about privilege and luxury do not go unnoticed – intricately tied with these are metrics of authenticity and representation. “We realise that accessing a digital museum definitely comes with its own socioeconomic challenges,” the founders say. “Having access to objects, the time and luxury to document the personal history and accessing digital platforms itself is very much a privilege in Indian society.”

While these considerations have the potential to leave them fazed, each experience shapes a better response.

“I often try to evaluate how people of different castes, religions, politics, class and genders would view the topic at hand and how I can relay the information as correctly as possible. It’s definitely not always well received, but there will always be controversial topics and I have to learn to be comfortable with that,” Ahsun says.

Another way is to be accepting of this fallacy and capitalise on the growing community of readers to help them straddle this grey area. Prachi and Onaiza often resort to this, relying on readers to point out oversights of privilege or simplistic treatment. They often put out calls to readers to suggest literature in languages they may not be familiar with. They do not want to succumb to the “bias of finding and curating that which is familiar”.

“We don’t claim to be experts in South Asian history or culture and we’re as much consumers of this content as we’re producers. We’re learning as we go and make mistakes as well,” they submit while pondering the excesses of the very platform that gives them power.

Stories that move and teach

There are obvious questions in this exercise of history collection. What qualifies as an archive? What should be included?

For the founders at Daak Vaak, the formula seems to be to select stories that echo universal human experiences such as nostalgia for childhood or unrequited love, and some that are unique and come bearing fresh perspective. The submissions so far, Prachi and Onaiza say, would make for an interesting read by any cultural analyst.

Brown History’s Ahsun also ventures an answer, and notes: “The stories that make it through typically either move people or teach people.”

A postcard recounting the journey of Pakistani artist Sughra Rababi who captured the profundity of the ‘ordinary’ through her paintings [Courtesy of Daak Vaak]

The reliance on memory undergirds the very nature of oral history, Navdha and Aanchal note. “We try our best to support our stories with fact and archival research, but there are some things that remain truths only because of the way in which people remember them, and we celebrate that.”

Author Manu S Pillai believes memory projects cannot replace the work of a historian or other official ways of record-keeping – these posts cannot be subjected to scholarly analysis as one would like. “Research and analysis is still heavy business,” he tells Danish Raza of the Hindustan Times, “but social media helps generate an appetite for history beyond scholarly circles, and any such mass interest is, in the long run, a positive development.”

Pillai’s argument brings up an interesting distinction between history and memory. Katja Müller, a German researcher, argues that real memory is alive and pliable. “Memory is by nature multiple and yet specific; collective, plural, and yet individual. History, on the other hand, belongs to everyone and to no one,” she writes in her paper, Between Lived and Archived Memory: How Digital Archives Can Tell History. Memory takes root through objects and images, while history is an organised and constructed past.

Digital archives that shape memory, she says, can change the way we engage with history.

Reframing identity and expression for the future

Combined, the number of followers on all three platforms easily crosses a million people – which is a million people who can attest to the positive impact digital memory initiatives have.

“Brown people and their voices are extremely underrepresented, we have very few outlets to have our stories be shown and heard,” Hiam says. “Platforms like this are key to preserving social and cultural memory in a raw and unfiltered way.”

“The internet is forever, and these images will live on this page forever.”

The question of sustaining these platforms is hard to overlook. The ingenuity and agility at their core force them to constantly adapt, but do they wonder if obsolescence is on the horizon?

“We don’t worry about it but we definitely plan for it,” Prachi and Onaiza say. “We don’t think it’s wise to completely rely on any one digital platform. So, while we enjoy the engagement and reach of social media, we are diligent in curating and archiving our weekly newsletters.” They refer to the digital postcards that land in mailboxes every Sunday – also hinting at the success the newsletter format has enjoyed during the pandemic.

In the early days, one of their preoccupations was with content saturation, if the knowledge well might drip dry. But time, experience, and social interaction have taught them otherwise. “We’ve learned in the last three years that there is so much to uncover and we’ve barely scratched the surface.”

A picture of a ‘payal,’ anklets that Samriddhi’s grandmother inherited on her wedding day in 1969 [Samriddhi Roy for Museum of Material Memory]

Submissions to the Museum echo this observation: the archive they are building reveals not just a history of objects and the people they belong to but, in parallel, unfolds generational narratives about traditions, culture, customs, habits, language, society, geography and history of the vast Indian subcontinent.

The founders hope to add to archival histories, augment knowledge and add diversity from the very grassroots. They plan to build a team of curators as they expand, holding exhibitions, and even monetarily compensate contributors.

“Our true hope in encouraging people – in the subcontinent and across the diaspora – to search for items in their homes and archiving the stories of objects as mundane as utensils and books, to as monetarily valuable as jewellery and wedding costumes,” they say. In doing so, they are creating an organic, accessible, digital archive of material culture that showcases the diversity and vibrancy of a vast landscape.

Ahsun also hopes that it proves to be an enlightening experience for anyone who looks at it. Particularly for South Asian people, he hopes that it plays a role in making sense of their identity. “If it’s a person of South Asian descent, then I hope they look at it as a kind of mirror,” he says.

Could history single out platforms like his as windows onto human expression and a prism of social and cultural change? Perhaps, as they carry stories that are at once powerful and fragile, simple and intricate, pensive yet uplifting. There are dualities that make up these communities and platforms – and it is in this that thousands find a home.

Such was Israa’s experience too.

“It’s amazing to think that I am 33 years old but have no idea how or why my grandparents ended up in East Pakistan (current day Bangladesh). What were the circumstances? Why did they decide that? And that is the impact of these platforms – it reflects the questions of identity, history, and belonging back onto the reader.”





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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‘Suddenly, she’s gone’: Mud and death in COVID-hit Indonesia | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Jakarta/Kudus, Indonesia – It should have been a time of celebration for Puji Apriani’s family – she was pregnant with her second child, and just weeks away from giving birth.

But instead of welcoming a new life, her family is now in mourning.

“I miss her. She was healthy, her pregnancy was normal. And suddenly, she’s gone,” her younger sister Ery Jurniastuti said.

The family lives in Kudus, Central Java – one of the worst affected areas by Indonesia’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“She felt out of breath, and she was coughing. She felt contractions in her stomach, too,” Ery said.

Home to almost 900,000 people, Kudus has recorded a 7,594 percent increase in cases since the beginning of this year.

Following a steep rise in cases this month, overwhelmed hospitals have been forced to turn patients away.

After being rejected by two hospitals, Puji was finally admitted, and her oxygen levels increased slightly.

But it was too late. Her condition deteriorated and she died in hospital.

“She died first, then they checked the heart of the baby. The baby is still inside, they didn’t take it out. It died there.”

 

Puji Apriani was pregnant and only a few weeks away from giving birth when she caught COVID-19. Now, instead of celebrating a new arrival, her family are morning the death of both Puji and her baby [Jamaah/Al Jazeera]

Doctors vs Delta

At the Loekmono Hadi General Hospital in Kudus, Dr Abdul Aziz Achyar said he was “surprised” by the ferocity of the surge, which has pushed bed occupancy rates in hospitals to more than 90 percent.

“During Ramadan, it was so quiet. We only had 18 patients. But then, when it started … I myself was also hospitalised,” he told Al Jazeera.

One hundred fifty-three of his colleagues also contracted the virus, and two of them died.

Indonesia’s capacity to track variants is limited, but doctors believe the current outbreak in Kudus is driven in part by the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India.

“We sent cases from health centre [for genome sequencing]… from 72 samples, 62 were the new variant,” Dr Abdul said.

At Aisyiyah Kudus Hospital, Dr Najib Budhiwardoyo said his hospital is completely at capacity.

“We are full of COVID patients. This second wave started after Eid,” he said.

“All hospitals in Kudus are experiencing this problem … oxygen scarcity. We have to be selective; we can only use oxygen for patients with very low saturation.”

Swamp turned cemetery

It is not just the hospitals in Java that are close to capacity, but cemeteries too.

In the Indonesian capital, the designated COVID-19 burial sites, such as Pondok Rangon Cemetery, that were opened in the early months of the pandemic are already full.

Cemetery workers told Al Jazeera they are struggling to keep up with their workload.

“Before COVID, I used to dig 10 graves each day. But yesterday, we dug 46 graves. The day before, it was 51,” Darsiman, a gravedigger of 20 years, said.

“We are very tired. We work from morning until night.”

Darsiman, a gravedigger of 20 years, waits for Wahyudin to finish writing on a wooden headstone [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera]

In Rorotan, North Jakarta, a new burial site for those who have died from COVID-19 opened just weeks ago – and already, more than 800 people have been buried there.

As the death toll continues to rise, finding room for the dead in this densely packed city is becoming a challenge.

The land at Rorotan used to be an empty swamp – the families of the deceased have to trek through the mud, to pay respects to their loved ones.

“This is a new cemetery … the other locations are full. There are just so many COVID cases, so they have to bring them here,” Darsiman said.

“It’s been raining so it’s muddy. It’s very sad to see funerals here, even the ambulances get stuck trying to come in.”

Headstone writer Wahyudin said his workload has increased because of the pandemic – and working at the cemetery takes an emotional toll.

“I feel so sad seeing this many burials. Seeing those families cry, I think about my own family,” he said.

“Before COVID, I also made headstones but it’s busier now. So many people have died.”

Moments to rest are scarce – just as workers lower a plastic-wrapped coffin into the ground, more ambulances arrive, with more dead to bury.

 

‘India should be our lesson’

This week, Indonesia surpassed two million confirmed cases of coronavirus – and more than 55,000 confirmed deaths.

Dr Nadia Siti, the head of Infectious Diseases at the Ministry of Health, said the rise in cases is not surprising.

“We know that if there is a holiday or event, there is an increasing number of people moving and travelling from other cities,” she said.

The cemetery at Rorotan has been built on what was once a swamp in northern Jakarta [Fakhrur Roz/Al Jazeera]
The cemetery at Rorotan has only been open for a few weeks and more than 800 people have already been buried there [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera]

“The government had restrictions on mudik, which is the tradition of Muslims to visit their hometown [during Eid Al Fitr]. Still, there are four to six million people who travelled.”

The situation in Kudus and capital are of particular concern to the Ministry of Health, where bed occupation rates are high and hospital workers are already overwhelmed by the crisis.

“In Jakarta, the bed occupation rate is almost 80 to 90 percent. We instruct hospitals to convert their beds into COVID-19 services, so they can be available for patients,” she said.

“The last strategy is to establish field hospitals with the coordination of the army or police.”

Long before the pandemic, Indonesia had a shortage of medical professionals – and there are concerns about how its stretched healthcare system will cope when infections are expected to peak in July.

“With the existing doctors, paramedics and nurses, it might not be enough. We might need an experienced doctor to supervise five or 10 new ones, who don’t have experience in taking care of patients,” Dr Nadia said.

“We do hope we won’t face the same situation like India. What happened in India should be our lesson.”



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino dies at age of 61 | Obituaries News

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Aquino was the country’s 15th president from 2010 to 2016, and was succeeded by current president , Rodrigo Duterte.

Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III died early on Thursday, after a prolonged illness, according to several news reports.

Aquino, 61, served as the country’s 15th president from 2010 to 2016, and was succeeded in office by the incumbent, Rodrigo Duterte.

According to ABS-CBN News, he was hospitalised last Thursday.

But he has been undergoing dialysis for at least five months and had recently undergone a heart operation.

It was during Aquino’s administration that Manila took on China and filed a case before the Court of Arbitration at The Hague over the South China Sea dispute.

The Philippines later won that landmark case a month after Aquino left office in 2016.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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The scrappy Hong Kong tabloid that refused to bow to Beijing | Freedom of the Press News

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Hong Kong, China – The last edition of the Apple Daily, the small scrappy Hong Kong tabloid that emerged as a champion of democracy and outspoken critic of China, has rolled off the presses, four days after the newspaper celebrated its 26th anniversary.

The paper had been raided by police twice during the past 10 months on suspicion of violating the National Security Law that was imposed by Beijing almost a year ago. Since the first raid last August, founder Jimmy Lai, 73, has been in jail awaiting trial under the law.

Last week’s raid saw five top executives, including its chief editor, arrested for alleged security offences as 500 police officers swooped in on Apple’s headquarters, with another staffer – the head editorial writer – apprehended on Wednesday morning.

The final nail in the coffin, however, was Hong Kong authorities’ freeze on the bank accounts of the media group that owns the paper. The move made it impossible for the paper to pay its staff and vendors, even as readers snapped up copies to show their support.

The decision was based on “employee safety and manpower considerations”, Apple Daily said as it announced its closure on Wednesday.
“Here we say goodbye. Take care of yourselves.”

Staff members of Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital clap out the final edition of a paper that began publishing in 1995 and became a thorn in Beijing’s side [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” framework meant to guarantee rights and liberties absent in the mainland. For most of the past 20 years, the territory has remained a bastion of press freedom in a country where media is muzzled.

“The demise of Apple Daily negates ‘one country, two systems’ and sets the stage for ‘one country, one system,’” said Willy Lam, a longtime commentator on Chinese politics and a veteran newspaper editor.

Bold, brash

Founded just two years before the handover, Apple Daily was at once a gamble and a leap of faith.

“The paper wanted to have some impact not just on Hong Kong but also to support the liberalisation of China,” Lam told Al Jazeera. “But as China has become less open to Western values, the paper has focused on defending Hong Kong values and holding Beijing to account.”

In its inaugural editorial, Apple Daily said it aimed to be a paper for the Hong Kong people.

Lai, its founder and funder, a devout Catholic who had made a fortune in the fashion business, named the paper after the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament. Its rhyming couplet jingle – “An Apple a day, no liars can hold sway” – caught the attention of Hong Kong readers used to more staid offerings.

It was loud. It was bold, It was flashy.

The paper grabbed attention when it splashed a surreptitiously shot photo of Deng Xiaoping – China’s then-paramount leader died in February at the age of 92 – on his deathbed on the front page.

Brashness was its selling point.

Its reporters frequently skewered public officials and needled the comfortable.

“It speaks truth to power and finds a way to do profitably,” said Lokman Tsui, assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai, standing by one of the printing presses in 2009, created a hugely popular paper that supported democracy, was unafraid to speak truth to power and critical of the Communist Party in Beijing [File: Alex Hofford/EPA]
Apple Daily’s founder and funder, Jimmy Lai, was arrested in August under the national security law and the paper’s headquarters raided. He has now been jailed [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The paper catered to high brow and low. Colourful spreads of scantily-clad female models appeared in the same section of the paper as erudite columns featuring quotes in Latin and Classical Chinese. With a couple of exceptions, its ranks of columnists were the who’s who of the territory’s pro-democracy circle.

Giving people what they want

Launched at the dawn of the internet age, the daily was quick to adapt to the digital world. Its website pioneered animated news – a mix of stills, short clips and clever graphics with narration dripping with sour sarcasm. Its lifestyle channel on YouTube built a fervent following.

A decade in, the paper’s circulation peaked at 500,000 in a city of approximately six million people with a dozen dailies.

Apple Daily’s brand of advocacy journalism would soon make the paper a thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party. But to Lai, a rags-to-riches maverick millionaire now named Public Enemy No. 1 by Beijing, it was all about giving his customers what they would buy, even down to protest poster inserts.

In the summer of 2019, amid popular opposition to legislation that would send Hong Kong residents for trial in mainland China, the paper shorthanded “extradition to China” into the homophonic colloquial Cantonese expression of seeing someone to the grave. The expression immediately caught on and became a rallying cry in the protest movement.

“At times, we might have gone overboard but everything we did fell within the bounds of the law,” said Robert Chan, 45, who has covered mainland China for the paper for the past three years.

That is until the passage of the security law, which punishes what the authorities deem subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life sentences.

Prosecutors have used Lai’s frequent meetings with US officials in recent years, from the then-vice president on down, as “evidence” of his alleged “collusion with foreign powers”.

Staff from Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital work on the final edition of their newspaper on June 23. In its first-ever editorial, the paper said it wanted to be a publication of the Hong Kong people. It printed a million copies of its final edition [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Early last month, rumours started to circulate that Beijing wanted to see the paper be shuttered in time for the Communist Party’s centenary celebrations on July 1.

Technology reporter for a decade, Alex Tang, 37, said like most of his colleagues he had become conditioned to taking unsubstantiated gossip with a grain of salt – until the second raid and the company asset freeze.

During the past few days, some of the 800 reporters at the paper were frustrated by the lack of a definitive answer on the last publishing date and severance.

“Management said they’d hang on till the bitter end, and they’ve kept their word,” said Tang. “The company has done its best.”

Apple Daily will live on as a website on the self-governing island of Taiwan, where it ceased paper publication last month.

But in Hong Kong, China news reporter Chan said he will mourn the loss of far more than his livelihood.

“With the paper gone, so would the values it represents: pursuit of freedom and democracy,” he said.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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