Friday, August 14, 2009

Bangladesh's Bedes, known as river gypsies, live in tarpaulin tents after the monsoons. Photo by Sanjit Das


By Anuj Chopra

LAUHAJANG, BANGLADESH --Each monsoon season, swelling rivers send the nomadic Bedes, or "river gypsies," drifting once again across Bangladesh waterways. When the monsoons end, the Bedes return to land to live in tarpaulin tents or bamboo huts in places like Lauhajang, a village of 150 families 44 miles from the capital, Dhaka. The village is part of a government program to end the 800,000-member community's nomadic ways, educate their children and convince them to become part of mainstream society. In December, the Bedes were given the right to vote for the first time in national elections. "For all these years, we were living as refugees in our own country," said Saud Khan, 51, a Lauhajang resident. "For the first time, we feel like we have become citizens of Bangladesh." ...

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