Guwahati: Weeks of torrential rains have caused the worst flooding in Assam in recent times, destroying the homes and livelihoods of thousands of people. However, fans of the popular South Korean pop group BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan) have given a glimmer of hope to the lakhs of sufferers by raising a whopping Rs. 5 lakh for relief efforts.
The BTS Army from Assam has stirred up a storm on social media after helping raised over 5 lakh within a day through online donations -- an incredible feat under circumstances. Bhavna Barman, a 23 years old Dibrugarh University (DU) student who is pursuing her Master's degree in Economics is the main architect behind this initiative and has now found herself thrust into the limelight as an unlikely hero. The Dibrugarh University student opened an account on the crowdfunding website Milaap which racked up an incredible Rs. 502,492 with 2,057 supporters within a day!
Bidisha Hazarika, a student from Assam who contributed towards the cause, told The Sentinal Digital said that the youngsters have come together for the cause as BTS themselves participate in charitable causes. However, she added that BTS fans are often targetted for their different taste in music. "There are memes that are being made about people like us who like Korean music. They do not understand this kind of music, so they often bully us. I tried arguing with people, but now we just let our actions do the talking."
The unfolding disaster comes as Assam is still reeling from the outbreak coronavirus that has necessitated lockdowns in the bigger cities and towns (a la Guwahati, Jorhat). The floods this year have taken a heavy toll on Assam this year and leftover 39 lakh people (which is 1/10th of the state's population) reeling due to the deluge. At the same time, 49,313 people have been rendered homeless due to the havoc of the floods and are taking shelter in relief camps. With 4 more deaths on Thursday, the death toll due to floods in Assam this year has risen to 71.
Bhavna Barman, in a candid chat with The Sentinel Digital revealed what prompted her to kick off the massively successful crowdfunding campaign. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
So what energized you to begin this campaign? Your energy seems to have seeped into others as well. Over 2,000 donors! How does it feel?
For starters we all know how flood devastates us every year, and as usual national media ignores us. They were more concerned about Amitabh (Bachchan) ji drinking water in hospital rather than 80 people dying due to floods in Assam. The Assamese student community has been ruckus to Twitter to attract attention to this very pertinent issue, and some of us have been trying our darnedest to bring the limelight towards this issue.
BTS and Assam floods are an unlikely combo. Did you anticipate that the BTS fans would respond in such an overwhelming manner?
I have been a BTS fan since 2017 when they first exploded onto the international music scene, and I have a fair amount of BTS fan followers in my account from India as well as abroad. I requested the Indian BTS fans (or A.R.M.Y) to come forward and help us. I was hopeful as a few days prior, on an ARMY member's birthday, Indian BTS fans had organized a nationwide charity project. I was initially very happy when my tweet garnered attention and a few friends messaged me asking how they could help.
You have collected a huge sum that could go a long way in aiding the flood-affected people tide over the crisis. How do you intend to provide the funds to these people?
I have a friend who worked with People for People, an NGO, who is also a BTS fan. They were already collecting funds for doing groundwork in Assam. We collaborated with people for people NGO and created a link for donations in the website Milaap under the name BTS ARMY ASSAM.
We created a group chat where 25 people were added, who came up to me first. The BTS fans shared links, messaged big twitter accounts, other big BTS fan accounts as well as BTS fan charity projects too.
Were you at all surprised by the massive response that your campaign attracted? What do you envision for the future? Is this BTS Army Project Assam here to stay?
It was not totally unexpected. BTS fans are known for their huge social media presence and in less than 5 hours, we had collected Rs. 1 lakhs! In 24 hours, we had collected more than Rs. 5 lakh. The donations are still rising and we had to close the original link because Milaap contacted us and told their website crashed due to heavy traffic from BTS fans! So yes, we are now creating a page permanently to help raise funds for various issues across India from time to time. This noble project that started by my one tweet is here to stay.
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