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.
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.
Anup Shekhar Chakraborty
Following the Dalai Lama’s apposite use of the term ‘Guest’ for himself and the larger ‘Tibetan’s in Exile’ in India whom he represents, I would attempt to unravel the position of the Tibetan Muslims in the Eastern Himalayan settings of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Tibetan Muslims (Bhote Muslims/Bhutia Muslims), a micro-migrant group of the Tibetan exiles in India, migrated alongside their Buddhist counterparts during the early sixties of twentieth century. Tibetan Muslims over the years have settled up North in Srinagar, and Gangtok, Darjeeling, and Kalimpong in the Eastern Himalayas.
The Tibetan Muslim community as a part of the larger ‘Tibetan in Exile’ have walked a tight rope first, in order to furnish evidence of their loyalty to the larger encapsulating Buddhist Tibetan identity and distancing themselves from the more controversial symbols of their religiously informed cultural identity. Such a strategy has enabled the Tibetan Muslims to elbow other Muslim groups (Bihari, Bengali, Kashmiri etc.) in Darjeeling and claim proximity to the exclusivist ‘Paharey Identity’ (‘Hill Identity’ akin to the hegemonic ‘Gorkhey Identity’) in hill towns of Eastern Himalayas. Second, in order to gain proximity to the Indian state they cling to their ‘Kashmiri-Ladaki Muslim’ lineage and flaunt the necessary symbols of their associated religious identity. These are much in congruence to the understanding how people as communities negotiate themselves into becoming ‘citizens’ in parts and degrees, and critics have typecast this in the hills of Darjeeling-Kalimpong-Gangtok as the “Chameleonizing tactics of ‘guest’ that is the Tibetan Muslims”. Continue reading ““The Guests”: Tibetan Muslims in Eastern Himalayas”
Priya Singh and Sucharita Sengupta
Panel Discussion on Rohingya and Syrian Refugees by Calcutta Research Group, on 6 April 2017, supported by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS).
No other time was more apt perhaps than this to interrogate India’s refugee policies along with an appraisal of the contemporary global regime of care and protection for migrant communities. Civil war in Syria has been one of the worst humanitarian crises in the recent decade challenging Europe’s migration policy. Incessant deaths in the Mediterranean, in border detention camps, plight of fleeing refugees, women and trafficked victims- be it Syrians in Europe or Rohingyas in South Asia- for war, state violence, religious persecution, flood and so on, have amounted to an inordinate number of 60 million refugees worldwide. Perceptions resulting into worst manifestations of human rights violations have on the one hand drawn empathy, but on the other have unfurled xenophobia, attempting to curb migration in general. The recent policies of the U.S government concerning economic migration are indicative of this trend. India too is witnessing myriad forms of discrimination. From racial attack on Nigerian students in the capital to establishing detention centres in order to detect migrants in Assam and now identifying Rohingya refugees in Jammu in order to deport them back to Myanmar, thus evokes concerns for scholars and practitioners working on issues of human rights, gender, justice and refugees. These concerns culminated into a roundtable discussion by CRG on India’s migration policy; practice and release of the special issue of Refugee Watch Journal (A CRG Publication) on Syrian Refugees. The idea was to drive home the point that while the migration crisis in Europe has resulted into a number of regional initiatives and sensitisation of international media, the same has hardly ensued in case of the Rohingyas, world’s largest persecuted stales community in Asia. Therefore, there is a need to present the contemporary crisis of the global south as well along with the European scenario. While panelists of the round table discussion shared their experiences on the Asian scenario, the specialty of this issue of Refugee Watch is that it has articles based on extensive field research of the European scenario, especially Syrian refugees living as stateless people across the Middle East. The three panelists were Professor Ranabir Samaddar, Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, CRG; Professor Paula Banerjee, Director, CRG and Dean of Arts, Calcutta University; Professor Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Vice Chancellor, Rabindra Bharati University. The Panel discussion was chaired by Professor Samita Sen, Director, School of Women’s Studies and Dean, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, Law and Management, Jadavpur University. Continue reading “Report: Panel discussion and book release by CRG and RLS”
Most writings on refugee economy or the immigrant economy refer to changes in the immigrant labour absorption policies of the Western governments. These writings reflect on the economic activities of the refugees and other victims of forced migration. Refugees are seen as economic actors in the market. But we do not get a full picture of why capitalism in late twentieth or early twenty first century needs these refugee or immigrant economic actors. The idea we get is that refugees and other victims of forced migration want to be economically viable, relevant to the host economies, and are economically relevant, but they are discriminated against. These writings showcase refugees’ attempts to survive meaningfully in camps, cities, and other settlements, in ethnically homogenous or mixed settings, and the ways they prove useful to market, big business, and organised trade. Several studies along this line tell us of the success stories of migrants’ economic activities. The message is: the refugee or the migrant as an economic actor has arrived, do not neglect the refugee, do not dismiss the refugee as an economic actor. Yet the organic link between the immigrant as an economic actor and the global capitalist economy seems to escape the analysis in these writings.
Nauru, officially the Republic of Nauru, is an island country in Micronesia in the Central Pacific and the smallest republic in the world. Formerly known as Pleasant Island, it was once a British colony which has however long passed under the aegis of the Australian government and in recent years run into controversy as a site for the “offshore processing” of people who seek asylum and protection. Since 2013, Australia has sent all asylum-seekers arriving by boat into detention on Nauru, Papua New Guinea or Manus Island, and denied them resettlement in Australia despite an outcry from rights groups. In fact innumerable countries, the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented such instances of illegal detention. Unfortunately, as per recent statistics, more than 77% of the population forcibly sent to Nauru by the Australian government consists of refugees who are not allowed to leave the island. In the critically acclaimed They Cannot take the Sky, Michael Green, Andre Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope as editors have courageously and painstakingly documented the first-person narratives of the people detained as they reveal not only their extraordinary journeys and their daily struggles but also their reflections on love, death, hope and injustice, thus breaking the culture of silence and suppression that surrounds them from the moment they are taken to the island. A creation of the Behind the Wire publication stable, which incidentally is an award winning oral history organization, They Cannot take the Sky carries forward the tenor of exploring and documenting the truth in incidents of illegal detention in the aforementioned islands. Below are my impressions of reading an extract from the book, the narrative of a child called Benjamin. Continue reading “‘When you realise no one cares’: A narrative from Nauru”
Simshar, a Maltese drama film which released on the 27th of April, 2014 showcases two parallel plotlines occurring simultaneously, which are brought closer with the common theme of the mortal hazards of international migration. This film is not only a debut of the director, Rebecca Cremona, but the first Maltese film to be made. On one hand, we see a Maltese fisherman named Simon (Lofti Abdelli) and his family, to whom the ship ‘Simshar’ belongs. On the other hand, we see a Turkish vessel with African migrants on board, travelling to Italy. Mark Misfud plays Alex, a medic on the Turkish vessel, whose interactions with Makeda (Laura Kpegli) shapes the way he views their current predicament. The film throws light on a personal story of a fisherman’s family, in the backdrop of several others who are in a situation to face the same fate, anytime. As is mentioned in the opening of the film, it is indeed inspired by true events. Continue reading “Simshar: A Portrayal of Perspectives”
Almaty, situated in southern Kazakhstan, is close to the Chinese border. One of the most interesting places in the outskirts of the city is Barakholka, a large out-of-town bazar that lies to the north-west of Almaty, reputedly stretching for nearly five kilometers. Nestled in the foothills of the Tien Shan, it is a noisy, congested and chaotic maze of zigzagging aisles where thousands shop every day. The market, which stretches along-side a road leading out of town, is organised into sections, each named differently—“Europe,” “Evrazia” and so on. Barakholka is a rabbit warren of stalls (actually comprising several different bazars, each offering specific merchandise). Most of the bazar is outside, and trying to find a particular section is nearly impossible. One can spend hours turning corners and walking through long barn like buildings weaving through the crowds. The bazar sells literally everything that one would want to buy from clothes to food and toys, hardware to handicrafts. It is also a market where Uzbeks, Uighurs, and Dungans converge to sell products of Chinese make. Inside the labyrinths of shops and tents there are restaurants that reflect the ethnic diversity of the market. There are also always hawkers who walk through the narrow aisles selling tea, fruit and somsa, yelling alternately in Kazakh and Russian.