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UNHEARD VOICES OF THE

VICTIMS OF DISASTERS

Dr Subhasis Bhadra

Assistant professor
Department of Social Work,
School of Humanities and
Social Sciences
Gautam Buddha University

National Conference on “Writings from the Margins”


24th March 2012
Disaster-??
• Disasters keep occurring in
various forms and
mercilessly ruin the life of
the survivors.

A disaster can be human made or natural based on the cause of


disaster. Natural disasters are due to nature’s fury, but human made
disasters are due to human error or intension

Disasters devastate social, psychosocial ecology of the affected


people and need of external help for revival.
Disaster gets immediate attention evokes response, immediately….
But in long term all tend to forget about the survivors
Why to talk about it ?
• Though disaster affects all; there are many survivors who face
higher impact.
• These impacts are not only limited within the events of disaster
rather survivors face higher problems in the subsequent days.

Some of the problems linger on, may


be for lifelong. Many of the scare in the
mind of the survivors do not heal even
after years.
Facilitating ventilation is one of the
essential techniques of psychological
healing and to build normalcy.
In the process of psychosocial support
the survivors are therapeutically made
to talk about their sufferings.
Why do they write ??
• To express the feelings that are very deep in heart- anger,
sorrow, guilt, revenge etc.
• They feel in a way that is widely different from the pre-disaster
experiences
• Mostly, the writings are to express self sufferings
• At times to communicate about the sufferings
to others.
• Writings helps in ventilation and healing.
Where do they write?
Writings of the disaster survivors is most
informal way of writing:
• writing in their note books, daily account
books or even on the white portion of
news papers
• Left over pages of note books
• Some time in a form of letter

• Many a time the survivors have destroyed


their writing, some times very possessive
to keep.
Who are these survivors…??
• The article is focusing on writing of those marginalised
disaster survivors who became amputated, paraplegics due to
injury or lost his/her parents, close family members,
undergone severe harassment and also some of them were lone
survivors. These groups of survivors are the worse victim of
any disaster and also live rest of their life with deep
unresolved memories of disaster
Writings of a riot survivor:
The day was same as any other day, no idea, where
is Godhra. I did not know, what happened, how
or when. My mother said to be inside at home.
We all three sisters were at home. Never
understood, what are the sound and its reason?
There were two gas cylinders at my home. I
think it would have been better to keep
three.………………. I pray, I should sleep and
not get up in the next morning. Who will cry??
My mother. Now also she cries for me, the way I
was abused (ijjat luta gaya), she keeps me in
hiding. . I believe in God, he ensured my escape
from death, now why is he not helping me to
escape from life?”
16 years old girl ,victims of sexual violence
Writing of a lone survivor of earthquake
• Many of my friends were pulling out dead people from the
rubbles, …….Last it was my wife. …… I wanted to see my father,
brother, wife all. I do not remember further. . All were dead on
the same day. My happiness died, my dream died, my hope died,
my thoughts died, my future died. It is just my past, my photos,
and my memories. Nothing further, no future. …..the day of
earthquake was the best day in my life. I got to know myself, the
reality of life from that day. It was so easy to die under the
rubble. But I did not die, now every day I am dying, under
rubbles of memories, a life of no use, a suffering that I would
carry for rest of my life. I fooled earthquake, it could not kill me,
or earthquake fooled me to live a life with strong desire for
death”
23 years old, Man
Youth who survived with his younger brother in
Tsunami:
• My head was blank, I could not think anything. I
just wanted to reach Car Nicobar…My house
has no sign. The air force station was completely
destroyed. My house was just near to that. I
shouted in the broken, washed away ground for
my parents, brother….Where my parents, grand
parent, my sister and brother are? I could not
belief, I could not think, I just sat sometimes
where I felt my house was. Crying, hauling, the
deep blue sea, all at peace, is wide spread…I do
not know, can’t think. I still feel my parents are
crying for help. I get up at night. I may go mad. I
might one day leave the world suddenly. I might
meet my parents again in the heaven, if there is
any.
20 years old man
Writing from a middle aged lady who lost her
both children and husband in Tsunami
• “This is the note book, of my son which he had left in last
summer…..now I am left only with this note book, my son’s
note book….Where is he, I saw him last on that day, he went
out to play a cricket match on the beach. That is the last. When
my last day will come? Every moment is waiting for me, to
count for the last minute to come. All my people are dead; they
are alive in my heart, in my memory, in my dream. I am alive,
but living like dead. ….I am a walking dead body. Every
breath I die, still I am alive…Colours are beautiful, black is
killing. Sea was black on that day. I can see my days are
same….life cannot win over death. My life is different, death
and death.

30 years old, Lady


A survivors of Kashmir earthquake and political
unrest.
• “My life is ruined due to militant or military. Living between
two guns will kill the Kashmiris. …All my dreams are
destroyed in bloodshed, in killing, in cry and sufferings or
people around me. I have no more bright future; I was a bright
student, now it is a jock,…..We will never get justice.
…………….. Just for you, I want to say, you are the first
Indian, who is so good. In the name of Indian we get all the
military. I quest for justice; I carry the pain all around my
mind. …I have recovered, at least I have a job. Gulam did not
recover, still he is mad.…………………No one of us will get
justice. ... I am happy that at least earthquake has brought
some good people like you, some outsiders, who are really
interested to know the story of Kashmir.
Features of the writings:
• All these writings from the survivors of disasters have some
commonality that puts the ethos of sufferings together.
• survivors have mentioned about their state of sufferings due to
disaster where they have described themselves as a silent
victim of the situation.
• question about their own situation of sufferings. Many a time,
a deep sense of apathy towards life is reflected.
• The reflection of death and life questioning about right-wrong,
punishment-rearward are seen commonly.
• disaster survivors expressed their situation which is mixed
with events and thoughts
Conclusion:
• None of these writing are published writing. These are not any
organized writing. Every one had written in their own
vernacular.
• Survivors also wrote about their future which looks grim,
confusing and hopeless. In most of the writings a strong sense
of death wishes is prominently reflected.
• The voice of the disaster survivors is only reflected
immediately after a grave occurrence, but their long term
sufferings are always being marginalised and have less focus
in the literary discourse.
bhadrasubhasis@gmail.com
Questions..????