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FOCUS March 2005 Volume 39

Second Tragedy


When tsunami struck several countries around the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004, the world was awed by its immense damage to people and properties. Thousands of people were killed, and thousands more were displaced.

But a quiet, second tragedy happened soon after relief and rehabilitation efforts begun. It is a tragedy that flows from the human rights violations already plaguing the affected countries for years, and in some cases generations.

Discrimination against Dalits, foreign migrant workers and hapless children, among other disadvantaged people, continued during the relief and rehabilitation period and further deepened the impact of the tsunami tragedy. While people and governments the world over displayed their empathy for the victims, discrimination against the already disadvantaged and abused people did not recede in affected areas in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

There must be vigilance both in times of "normalcy" and disaster against further victimization of discriminated people. The thought that children who lost their parents are now being targeted for sexual, commercial and other forms of exploitation is making the tsunami tragedy a permanent symbol of oppression.

The second tragedy against the Dalits, Burmese/Myanmarese workers, young orphans, and other disadvantaged people reminds us that human rights violations never cease even when the human instinct of helping victims of tragedy is supposed to prevail.