Oxfam “didn’t want white faces to save refugees” in 1971: An Interview with Julian Francis

March 1971. Pakistani army launches “Operation Searchlight” to carry out a genocide of Bengalis from the erstwhile East Pakistan (present Bangladesh), resulting in a liberation war and a mammoth refugee crisis.  An estimated 10 million people from East Pakistan seek refuge in India.

Julian Francis, a 26 year-old employee of Oxfam, UK, was working on a Gandhian village development project in Bihar when the refugee influx started. The news of the grim condition of refugees reached his team in Bihar. Soon the then Oxfam’s Field Director for Eastern India and East Pakistan, Raymond Cournoyer, contacted his team and requested their assistance in Kolkata. Francis was given the charge of coordinating relief for refugees. He used to organize and handle the supplies of material. Oxfam worked with 600,000 East Bengali refugees according to his estimates. In an interview with Utsa Sarmin, Francis recalls the refugee crisis of 1971 and Oxfam’s role.

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Report on the webinar: “Covid 19 and Migrant Labour: Laws, Policies, Practices”

The pandemic Covid-19 in India is not a new issue, but its impacts are still being felt all over the country – by all classes, professions and genders. The central government and state governments have tried to deal with the pandemic by creating new laws and policies – but it is debatable how much of it is yielding positive results and if those laws and policies are being practised in the first place. Apart from the pandemic, there have been developments which have made the political atmosphere of the country tense as there have been arrests and interrogations of activists. Almost every Indian has reflected on the police and their actions at time when majority of the people are at their most vulnerable. The Supreme Court’s role amidst all of this has been also been debated. In such a context, scholar Kalpana Kannabiran and journalist Bharat Bhushan engaged in an important discussion about these questions with K.M. Parivelan moderating the session. Sukanya Bhattacharya reports on the webinar organized on 30th July.

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‘A long road with no turning back’- One Day International Teachers’ Workshop on Forced Migration: Humanity at the Crossroads

The departments of History and Political Science, Sivanath Shastri College (SSC), in collaboration with the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG) conducted a One-Day International Teachers’ workshop titled Forced Migration: Humanity at the Crossroads on the 9th of July, 2020. Arna Dirghani reports.

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A brief note on Floods and Erosion in Assam: Problems without Prospects

In Assam, for those who perhaps do not directly suffer, floods and erosion are an annual affair that come and leave with the monsoon. Every coming year is equally or more devastating than the earlier one. Mridugunjan Deka makes a case on the seriousness of the issue, using publicly available and accessible government data sources. 

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The Health Crisis on the Northern Mexico Border – A Report

On the 28th of July, 2020, the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and Boston College School of Social Work organized a webinar titled “The Health Crisis on the Northern Mexico Border: Cross-Border Implications of U.S Immigration Policies”. It focused on the ongoing health crisis, specifically in the COVID situation, faced by the asylum seekers and prospective immigrants into the United States of America, in the northern border of Mexico. Debayan Das Gupta reports.

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Covid-19: Redrawn Borders, Redefined Lives – A Report

 On 8th July 2020, the Calcutta Research Group (CRG), in collaboration with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung   and Institute of Human Sciences, Vienna, organised a webinar which sought to address the sudden visibility of India’s migrant workers and questions regarding borders, inequality, public health and care. Keeping in mind that the coronavirus pandemic has emerged not simply as a public health and economic crisis but also as one that has thrown migrant workers into deep turmoil, the webinar sought to interrogate issues of movement, sovereignty, governance, and borders between people, societies and states. Annesha Saha reports.

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