There are despairs and then they are big despairs, rather cause of despairs. What would you call the Rohingya crisis? Pain and suffering on both sides- Burma and Bangladesh- but the critical eye and sympathetic stares from an entire world. The homely touch of Rakhine state forgotten behind, and the violent uncertainties of future life awaiting them, this was no ordinary genocide. For a human rights concern, placing the disposition of Rohingya muslims at the centre of such a travesty that it reverberated all around the world, the plight of Rohingya muslims brought the attention of an entire world to a tiny part of the world called Burma, this was more than any other tumultuous issue that Burma had seen in last few days.
So implicit was this concern that it has impacted-albeit positively- the life of a Mumbai photographer, who at the back of photographing an absorbing and painfully moving picture of a woman besieged by the Rohingya crisis has won the Pulitzer prize in 2018. At this time, all roads of critical and creative appreciation lead to Mumbai-based photographer Danish Siddiqui.
But first, a bit about the core image that has won the Pulitzer prize in 2018, earning the Reuters team a huge felicitation. The picture of a grieving woman, shows a mid-aged woman (perceptibly so) from Burma touching the water-side surface in Bangladesh having just arrived at the shore. The woman’s photograph, it could be said, among the many of a violent displacement of a shape-shifting concern that has caught Burma in the middle of what currently seems an unsolvable human crisis is more that just a picture epitomising the human suffering. It tells us that despite who we may be and where we may be from, despite such massive awareness and redressal measures with regards to human rights issues, there are still creeds of people who are being ignored and subjugated with no reasonable explanation.
The Mumbai lensman Danish Siddiqui was present at the vantage point of the Rohingya crisis during its peak last year. In 2017, Danish Siddiqui shot these pictures that saw herds and herds of people arriving via a boat in Bangladesh from what might be described as an embittered Burma torn apart by the violent backlash and communal disarray at the time of the displacement of the Rohingya muslims. Part of a team of photographers and journalists who were present at that time in Bangladesh, Danish Siddiqui was one of the photographers from around the world who was engulfed in witnessing the typical scenes of Rohingya upheaval: weeping children, inconsolable men and women, the bitterness of having left behind their homes and relocating to a part of the world to which they are absolute strangers.
Due to a crackdown by authorities and Buddhist civilians against the Rohingya population in Burma’s Rakhine state, as many as 600,000 people were castigated from their homes and forced into a state of exile. No genocide is ever a peaceful process and has always resulted in an endless streak of sorrows, including the one for the displaced Rohingya people from Burma. So enormous has been the scale of this crisis that it has led to UN officials titling it “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
While few awards in the globe can equate the honour and prestige of a Pulitzer prize, the win in the feature’s category also leads a hitherto less known Mumbai lensman into the foray of public attention. And deservingly so, it ought to be said. But all said and done, it ought to be asked whether such a sensitive issue, now the plight highlighted once again through an epochal piece of photography can make the world move to address the concern for real?