Kolkata protests against renewed violence on Rohingyas, 04.09.2017.

In the history of Rohingya persecution in Myanmar, [for a history on the Rohingya refugees and their current situation, please check – A Report on the Rohingyas by Calcutta Research Group] this is probably the darkest hour. The intensity of violence that has been unleashed From 25 August 2017 is probably greater than the violence in 2012 when thousands had to flee to Bangladesh and other neighboring countries for shelter. In the last few years we have seen many humanitarian organisations and activists, besides international organisations like the United Nations, condemning the violence and state of statelessness of the Rohingyas. International media awareness too followed after the boat tragedies in 2015, when in trying to cross raging high seas in overcrowded rickety flotillas many were killed. However, despite efforts things have not really changed much for the Rohingyas in Mynamar, and from the last week of August, it has only worsened. According to the European Rohingya Council (ERC), in just three days, between August 25-28, nearly 3000 Rohingya Muslims were killed. Anita Schug, a spokesperson for the ERC and a doctor based in Switzerland, said, “The number of massacres carried out by the army against Muslims in Rakhine exceeds the one in 2012 and those in October last year. The situation has never been this bad. In Rakhine, we face a slow genocide,”. She added that, till now, more than 100,000 civilians have been displaced. For details of the report lease go to Nearly 3,000 Rohingya Muslims killed in the last three days.

Restless Beings, another organisation based in London and working for the rights of the Rohingyas refugees notes that, between August 25- 3 September alone, 4000 Rohingyas were indiscriminately killed in the districts of Rauthedaung, Bauthidaung and Maungdaw in Rakhine State, Mynamar. More than 65,000 have crossed over to Bangladesh in deplorable conditions while around 20, 000 are stuck in the no – man’s land. The director of the organisation, Mabrur Ahmed, claiming this is the darkest hour for the Rohingyas, has been instrumental in providing aid and relief, like tents, clothing and food to 1000 refugees in the Myanmar- Bangladesh borders. Besides organising demonstrations in various places he has also called for international condemnation of the genocide. He shares his views through this video- Event organised by organisations like Restless Beings to condemn the violence on RohingyasContinue reading “Kolkata protests against renewed violence on Rohingyas, 04.09.2017.”

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The cult of gter: Remapping the political identity of Tibetans in India

Somraj Basu

gter literary tradition, figuring in Tibetan religious schools of thought is becoming relevant again. Giving fresh vent to conceive new ways of acquiring citizenship in India, gters appear – as a) geopolitical sites b) literary works as well as c) mental states of awareness[i].

As a living space (in a particularly strong manner within the Nyingma Buddhist Tradition), their routes of realization are permanently closed to Tibetans with the occupation of Tibet. This has caused the bodily misconfiguration through the spread of unlikely health problems among the Tibetans like Tuberculosis and immediately to open the scope for discussions on gter sites as offering possible cure regimes. gter documents as well as sites are traditionally offered as solutions to seeking minds for resolving and taking care of stressful questions and situations. The answers offered are permanent and immediatebut timing is most important for its revelation. Seeking the right kind of question only can lead to the appropriate answer. Contingent on environmental, economical, political or religious contexts, this specific determining function makes it likely for gters to be considered as ‘crisis heterotopias’. Continue reading “The cult of gter: Remapping the political identity of Tibetans in India”

Germany’s ‘Legal Entry Framework for Syrian Refugees’

Germany’s resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes for Syrian refugees should not be a blueprint for future efforts to develop legal entry frameworks internationally. Although Germany offers safety to a higher numbers of Syrians than any other European Union Member State, its resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes fail to acknowledge that Syrian refugees generally qualify for refugee status. Consequently, programme beneficiaries are denied the same status, the same scope of protection, the same rights and the same guarantees as refugees who are granted refugee status following the ordinary asylum procedure.
Christoph Tometten’s insightful analysis of Germany’s resettlement and admission programme can be accessed here.

 

Livelihood Solutions for Refugees

Pradeep Kumar Panda

World Refugee Day falls on 20 June. The day was created in the year 2000 by a special United Nations General Assembly Resolution. The lead international agency coordinating refugee protection is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. Such a person may be called an asylum seeker until granted refugee status by the contracting state or the UNHCR if they formally make a claim for asylum. As of 2015, total refugee population is 21.3 million.

The estimated population of refugees in India is approximately 36,000 of which about 19,000 are residing in New Delhi (UNHCR). They are from all nationalities including Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cameroon, China, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Maldives, Myanmar – Chin, Myanmar – Rohingya, Pakistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan and Yemen. Continue reading “Livelihood Solutions for Refugees”

Infrastructures of Modernity and the Labor of Sanitation in Urban India

Lalit Batra

When the sweepers change their profession, they will no longer remain untouchables. And they can do that soon, for the first thing that we will do when we accept the machine, will be to introduce the machine which clears dung without anyone having to handle it- the flush system. Then the sweepers can be free from the stigma of untouchability and assume the dignity of status that is their right as useful members of a casteless and classless society.

    Mulk Raj Anand, The Untouchable;  pg. 251-52.

On November 11, 2015, exactly 80 years after the young latrine cleaner Bakha, the protagonist of Mulk Raj Anand’s didactic novel The Untouchable, came to invest his desire for liberation from a life of caste-based indignity and humiliation in flush toilets and sewerages, Vinay Sirohi, a 22-year old Valmiki sanitation worker, left home for work at 6:30 in the morning. A vault operator at Keshopur sewage treatment plant (STP) in West Delhi, Sirohi was responsible for regulating the balance between the inflow of raw sewage water and the de-sludged water in what is called the ‘sludge digestion tank.’ Like the human digester, the sludge digester is a notoriously fickle but essential component of the wastewater treatment process. A blockage in any of the connecting pipes, if not immediately attended to, can cause substantial overflows of raw sewage or excessive production of toxic gases and bring the entire treatment process to a halt. The Standard Operating Procedure for STP maintenance mandates a coordinated intervention by a team of six – two operators, three helpers, and a safety inspector – to deal with overflow incidents. However, to cut costs, the private company managing the Keshopur plant had significantly reduced the number of workers in the Plant over the past few years. Consequently, instead of the required six, only one operator has been designated per shift to deal with overflows.

Continue reading “Infrastructures of Modernity and the Labor of Sanitation in Urban India”

Through my Lens: Field Notes from a Trip to Nagaland in May 2017

Sucharita Sengupta

[As a part of my research on Conflict and Social Governance in North East India (Principal researcher Prof. Paula Banerjee), I went to Nagaland for 10 days between May 1 and May 10, 2017.[i] This field report, written immediately after coming back from Nagaland is based on interviews and informal conversations conducted in Dimapur and Kohima.]

It was 7pm on a Monday, when I came out of the office of Morung Express, a well circulated daily of Nagaland, after interacting with one of their journalists, Aheli Moitra. Morung Express has provided a platform to scholars and activists involved in the new protest movements within the state. It was the first day of my field visit and also the first time when fear gripped me. Completely immersed in darkness, the road ahead was deserted, with no transport in sight. Aheli was unperturbed and helped me get an auto, which charged almost double to commute back to the hotel. Answering my protests to the increased fare, the driver said in Hindi, if translated which means, “It’s not safe here madam in the evenings, and you won’t find transport to take you back, so I am charging you double”. “Why”? I asked. “Things are much better now, so why do you say it’s still unsafe”? “Madam, there is no guarantee and the people here (read Nagas) always target the outsiders like us”. The auto driver, Shambhu, was a resident of Bihar. I reflected back to my conversation with Aheli on the same evening, some time back. Aheli is a Bengali by birth, and has been raised in various parts of India, which prompted me to ask, where does she situate herself in the state? Does she feel safe being an ‘outsider’ there? Her answer was, “Of course. More than I would in Bengal. There are no problems in Nagaland, especially regarding the safety of women. There is not a single problem that I have faced in my last three years in the state. I am happy with my work here. Only at times I crave to go back to the proper city life as everything is so quiet here”. From my experience of touring Nagaland in the next ten days, I had to agree with Aheli. I was helped by every stranger I met and interacted with, although a nagging discomfort of working on a subject that rarely evokes empathy remained through out the field work. Continue reading “Through my Lens: Field Notes from a Trip to Nagaland in May 2017”

Shifting homes and a troubled past— Understanding enclave existences of the Indo- Bangla borders

 

Deboleena Sengupta

The borderland is not just a straight-line, but a way of life for the borderlanders—a space to adapt, reject and negotiate with the interests of two sovereign nations.

way to Chhit Bangla

On 8 October 2016, my friend and I reached Chhit Bangla (also known as Chhit– Tiloi), which used to be a fragmented territory of Bangladesh that fell in India. This place currently overlaps Char Balabhut which falls under Tufangaj, a sub division of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. Bits of the land are further fragmented at places by Dhubri district of Assam. The Char (meaning a sandbar or river island) is separated from the mainland by the ‘International waters’. Across the waters, in Chhit– Bangla we met a woman, introduced as Kaushinmoi Bewa, the sole inhabitant of the region, who lived there with her daughter.

Kaushinmoi

[Kaushinmoi] Continue reading “Shifting homes and a troubled past— Understanding enclave existences of the Indo- Bangla borders”

‘Ekrupata Namkaran’ and the Nepali speaking people in South Asia: The problem and challenges of finding an appropriate collective representational nomenclature

Anup Shekhar Chakraborty

[Note from the author: The backdrop of the discussion in this article is the native Nepali speaking people in India and their quest to cartographically chart their emic self-defined identity in a map called Gorkhaland in and around Darjeeling in the directional construct ‘North Bengal’ located in the Indian state of West Bengal. As a geopolitical space Darjeeling has reflected immense tensions amidst the phased calm and phased uncalm in the form of demand for Chuttei Rajya (separate state) of Gorkhaland. The Chiyasi ko Andolan (1986 Movement) and the current imbroglio  (stretched from 2007 to 2017) though showing signs of peculiarities and particularities in terms of the movement, styles of leadership, political agency ,participations etc., continues to showcase commonalities, connections, and continuations in the indelible question of identity of the people and its place. Chuttei Rajya (separate state) of Gorkhaland is projected as the panacea for all prevailing problems of its people ranging from being stateless, neglected, misconstrued and misrepresented (as Durwans, Security guards etc), branded as ‘foreigners’ (confused to be from Nepal), called ‘Chinky’ (confused to be from North East India) etc. Though a popular tourist destination, globally known for ‘Darjeeling Tea’, idyllic backdrop of many Bollywood movies (and feeding into the romanticised visual social imaginaries of the South Asia) the region continues to be geographically misconstrued. The simple question ‘where is Darjeeling?’ can uncork startling responses and confusions: few presuming it to be in Assam (a clear confusion because of the ‘Tea’ factor); while others considering it to be a part of Nepal and trying to use Nepalese Rupee; and still others focusing on the historical connections with Sikkim etc. Another difficult question ‘Whom does Darjeeling belong to (territorially, politically, culturally, socially)?’ evokes vexed responses: while the Chuttei Rajya narrative claims its deep seated autonomy enmeshed in cultural, social, linguistic differences; those against ‘Bangavanga’ (division of West Bengal) claim Darjeeling to be the ‘crown’ of the state of ‘Sonar Bangla’. These responses do little to quench the thirst and curiosity of the questioner. I am of the view that if Darjeeling could speak for itself (like the Bollywood song sung by the late Mahendra Kapoor ‘Ye Mati Sabhi Ki Kahani Kahegi’ (Lyrics: Bharat Vyas. Music: Ramachandra. Soundtrack in V. Shantaram, dir. (1959). Navrang. India) the response might unleash startling rethinking, positional shifts and realignments. The current imbroglio in the ‘hills’ needs to be understood silhouetted on these seemingly disparate issues and problems.]

The evolution of martial race[i]– ‘Bir[ii] Gorkha’ (the brave invincible Gurkha)[iii] in South Asia and India in particular is embossed and engraved deeply into the history of the Raj (the British colonial government that ruled India in various forms over two centuries) and the Raj making. The ever changing borders, frontiers and spaces of the Raj witnessed the flow of a multitude of people/races/ethnicities/religions etc.[iv] The ‘traditional’[v] territorial spaces were traversed, turned inside out, made malleable to the demands and visions of the Raj. This meant that communities/people were coming to an interface more strongly at a faster pace amidst the wave of multidimensional change in transports, administration- security (artillery, war craft, defence, military intervention etc.) just to name a few. This also meant that communities/people were slowly yet surely by want/choice, force/coercion becoming categorized as ‘citizens’, ‘subjects’, ‘denizens’, ‘enemies’, ‘foreigners’, ‘interlopers’ and the like. The colonial census projects, studies of administrators doubling as anthropologists, surveyors, the missionaries and the numerous retinue of experts (white/European/American) and informant natives (the elites, the traditional privileged sections, mostly men) resulted in the creation/ construction of stereotypes and social imaginaries of communities/people in South Asia. Continue reading “‘Ekrupata Namkaran’ and the Nepali speaking people in South Asia: The problem and challenges of finding an appropriate collective representational nomenclature”

Has China Taken Over Pakistan?

S Akbar Zaidi

[This lecture was delivered in Calcutta on 9th June, 2017, as part of Calcutta Research Group and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung’s research on the Social Mapping of Infrastructure.]

It would be no exaggeration to state, that there has been more written on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the Pakistani press over the last two years when the project was initiated, than perhaps any other economic or financial relationship which has affected Pakistan. In this short span of time, more words have been written on what is being called a ‘game changer’, a ‘fate changer’, a project which will transform Pakistan permanently making it part of the developed world, than on the IMF (on which Pakistan has had a huge dependence for 30 years), the World Bank or foreign aid to Pakistan over many decades. Moreover, the nature of the narrative and the discourse around CPEC, compares very differently with any other financial and economic relationship in the past. Although the US has been Pakistan’s largest donor over 70 years, there has been much criticism of the type of this financial, economic, and subsequently diplomatic relationship, where the US has been seen to be the dominating partner, always asking Pakistan to ‘do more’ for all the monies poured into the country. Similarly, even though the IMF continues to save Pakistan at critical junctures by providing emergency loans and assistance, no structural adjustment package comes through without much debate and criticism from different sections of society. While there have been some questions raised on the Pakistan-China partnership, the tone and content of discussion has been very different, and even sceptics and those who question some of the terms of the new relationship, concede that much, if not all, is more good, than bad. Continue reading “Has China Taken Over Pakistan?”

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