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A home away from home

Many refugees in India are actively networking on sites like Orkut to push forward their viewpoint on issues concerning their homeland, writes Nirmika Singh.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2008 01:21 IST
Nirmika Singh

Life can be harsh when you are away from home, but it can be torturous when you have no home at all. Refugees are perhaps one of the most alienated communities in any country. The problems of picking up the pieces of ones life is often compounded by the memory of what is left behind.

It is only natural that in such circumstances these people try and connect with each other to have a sense of belonging. And what better way to do so than the Internet.

Social networking sites on the Internet not only serve as a meeting ground for like-minded people, but also defy the physical distances between people.

Many second and third-generation refugees in India are actively networking on sites like Orkut, Facebook and Hi5. They share their experiences with others sailing in the same boat and even push forward their viewpoint on issues concerning their homeland.

India has a sizeable Tibetan population for whom the country has been no less than a second home. Strong opponents of the Chinese occupation of their homeland, the younger ones among the lot are leveraging the Internet to connect with fellow Tibetans and spread the campaign against Chinese aggression on Tibetan people.

Pema CG, a Tibetan student studying in Delhi says "Social networking sites help a lot. You feel connected with your people even if you cannot meet them in person. Since one can’t email all the time, Hi5 and Facebook keep us connected".

Adds Aprajita Sarkar, Coordinator of Friends of Tibet (Delhi chapter), "Our community on Orkut and Hi5 helps spreading our word among our Tibetan friends. Internet is a virtual world that binds people."

<b1>One is left surprised by the depth of discussions that these people, displaced from their homeland engage on these sites. Organisations like Friends of Tibet and Students for Free Tibet have extensive networks on Orkut, Hi5 and Facebook.

They are using these networking sites as a platform to condemn Chinese atrocities and spread their campaign for a free Tibet far and wide. For them, speaking up on the internet is like finding a new and a more vociferous voice.

India is also home to many Bangladeshis who left their country to find a new home and livelihood in India. On Orkut, you can find communities started by Bangladeshis seeking comfort and solace in each others company, virtual though. One bold community started by a group of Bangladeshis in Kolkata declares that they are not weak and can even shed their blood for India if required. Quite bold, we must say.

And while refugees are finding a new-found refuge in the internet, some anti-refugee communities on Orkut are also openly seeking support from people to “save India from refugees”.

A community called “Lets save India from Refugees” started by one Ravindra Shinde from Pune wants to help the government in ousting the refugees from the country. Sadly for him, there are no takers for his viewpoint as this “community” just consists of one person - himself.