KOLKATA: With pleas from humanitarian groups, political parties and activists on the plight of Rohingya refugees falling on deaf ears, a Kolkata band has come forward to make a difference through their music.
Known for its protest songs, the band Underground Authority has given voice to the anguish of the Rohingya Muslims, who are being driven out of their homeland and shunned by the international community.
Titled Boatman, the 4.35-minute song in English is set on a boat which leaves the Myanmar shores but is not allowed to anchor at any coast of the neighbouring countries. “Boatman, boatman why can’t I see the land and why my family sent me away in the hands of another man?... I am hungry, I am tired; can’t drink no sea water… my fate is shared by many and I am shared as a product,” goes the lyrics.
The video of the song shows the face of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the background, who the band bitterly criticises for turning a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis created by the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in her country.
The band is also critical of the Indian government and other Southeast Asian countries for being completely insensitive to the misery of lakhs of Rohingyas.
“This is our protest against the genocide perpetrated on the most persecuted people in the world. If India and the world had stepped up pressure on the Myanmar government, the Rohingyas wouldn’t have had to leave their homeland,” the band’s lead vocalist Santhanam Srinivas Iyer told The Sunday Standard. “Suu Kyi fought for her people while she was under house arrest, and when now she is in power, she is calling Rohingyas illegal immigrants. This shows how power corrupts people. Our protest is against that. We sing to protest, not to impress.”
To popularise the song and create awareness about the crisis, the band is sending it free to people who stand up for the Rohingya cause through the twitter hashtag #StandwithRohingyas. Formed in 2010, the four-member band comprises Iyer, lead guitarist Adil Rashid, bassist Soumyadeep Bhattacharya and drummer Sourish Kumar.
The band has over 2.5 lakh followers on Facebook and YouTube. With a tagline ‘We sing to express and not impress’, it has created many protest songs in Bengali, Hindi and English on several national and international issues.
“Several Northeastern states face problems of illegal immigration. There won’t be many takers if Mamata Banerjee opens the border for Rohingyas. The solution to the crisis has to be initiated by the UN and powerful countries to exert pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas and ensure their safety. The world needs to treat the Rohingyas as humans first.” Is the global community listening?