You are here: Home » Beyond Business » Columns
Business Standard

In solidarity with Burma


Nilanjana S Roy  |  New Delhi 

THE FIRST THING I do this week is check for Dathana, but he's still offline. I don't know much about him, except that he's Burmese, runs a blog called "Nyein Chan Yar" "" "Sanctuary of Place of Serenity""" and has been one of the world's windows on the current crackdown in Burma. "I eat just a new ache of life every day," he had written on August 23, posting pictures of a non violent demonstration in the country. His last post, on September 24, was upbeat:
"Today, I was overwhelmed with excitement for seeing flood of monks andpeople from all layers marched on the streets. At around 2 pm, about 30thousand of monks passed near the Thein-Gyi market. Majority were monks but people walked at the side of monks holding each others hands," he wrote, under his monicker, "Eccentric Ghost".
Dathana's blog:
Until September 29, there were two versions of what was happening in Burma "" the official version, and the view from the ground. The Burma (Myanmar) Blog and Irrawaddy reported a groundswell of protests, with the monks leading an estimated 100,000 people through the streets of Yangon in one demonstration.
Every statement by the military junta was countered by pictures snapped on mobile phones, emails, reports of the number of monks brutally killed.
The regime was discovering one of the truths of the information age "" you can't cover up the truth. On 26 September, Moemaka carried pictures of the Ngwe Kyar Yan monastery in Rangoon with ransacked rooms and bloodspattered walls.
The Burma (Myanmar) Blog:
Irrawaddy (an expatriate's news journal):
In previous wars and conflict zones, the blogs have done most of the talking, providing the view from the ground, offering insights and snapshots of daily life in a way that normal journalism cannot match.
But Burma is on Facebook, too, and on YouTube, and Flickr, and Picasa "" every virtual space on the net that can be made to bear witness has been pressed into service.
The Facebook group "Support The Monk's Protest in Burma" carries a list of protest actions and suggests how we can get involved. Videos on YouTube show the monks' protests and the police crackdown in grim detail.
"Support the Monks' Protest" on Facebook:
Police clash video on YouTube:
Last Friday, the regime finally woke up to the fact that the world was watching. Dathana reported that it was getting harder to connect to the net. On September 27, Irrawaddy's website was hit by a computer virus, though it's back up now.
Then cybercafes were closed, online access from within Burma to most of the net was cut off "" emails can only be sent within the country, and the regime is reported to be monitoring mails.
But silence on the web is every bit as eloquent, and the crackdown has only focused more attention on Burma. Global Voices Online's Myanmar page has been translating what's up on the blogs "" for instance, blogger Niknayman's list of over 300 monks and civilians who have been arrested.
Today, over 1,500 bloggers will put up "silent posts" with just a Free Burma! banner and button displayed on their blogs, in symbolic solidarity with those who've been silenced. I have the blogs and Facebook pages open on my browser, a collage of hope and despair, a chronicle of arrests, bloodstains, crackdowns, protests, deaths and disappearances.
For the last week, nothing has been updated. But thousands of people across the world check every day, read the old blog entries, and hope. I think of Dathana, whose parents wouldn't let him join the protestors for too long because they worried for him. I check his page, even though I know the ban on the internet in Burma is still operational. One of these days, he might update his blog, and I don't want to miss that post.
Bloggers for Burma: the silent protest:
Global Voices Online's Myanmar Page:

First Published: Sat, October 06 2007. 00:00 IST