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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

A home away from home

March 2, 2008

Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 20, 2007

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."

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.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.
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