The Speaking Mirror of Bharati Das

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The second phase of refugee influx into West Bengal, especially by the once powerful caste group, namashudras, continues to be ill documented in social science literature of the day. Through the narrative of a young caregiver, Bharati Das, Parimal Bhattacharya makes an important intervention in documenting these lives, as well as, through the trope of a video recording, makes marginalised voices heard.  

Continue reading “The Speaking Mirror of Bharati Das”

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Uemon and Hariprabha Takeda: Travelling into Lives (Part – II)

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Hariprabha visited Japan thrice in her lifetime. Uemon accompanied her each time. Their third visit together had coincided with the Second World War and Hariprabha jotted down her experiences of a war-torn Japan in the form of diary entries. Madhurima Mukhopadhyay, in the second part of her essay, focuses on Hariprabha’s war memories. The first part can be read here. Continue reading “Uemon and Hariprabha Takeda: Travelling into Lives (Part – II)”

Uemon and Hariprabha Takeda: Travelling into Lives

Uemon and Hariprabha Takeda

Marriage in most cases entails a shift of location for the woman as she moves from her natal home to her husband’s home. For Hariprabha Mallick, who married a Japanese migrant labourer working in a soap factory of Dhaka in 1907, matrimony entailed a trip to Japan to meet her in laws.  Madhurima Mukhopadhyay writes in two parts about Hariprabha’s extraordinary experiences in Japan. Here is the first part.

Continue reading “Uemon and Hariprabha Takeda: Travelling into Lives”

“Who leaves home if there is a choice?”: Understanding migration decisions

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Nirala’s great grandfather travelled from Jharkhand to a tea plantation in Dooars (plains in the foothills of Northern Himalayan, in West Bengal), where Nirala lives till today. Her granddaughter Madeeha has recently joined work as a domestic help in Gurgaon (in the state of Haryana). Labour migration is never a simple binary between choice and force, Supurna Banerjee explores through two such migration narratives. 

Continue reading ““Who leaves home if there is a choice?”: Understanding migration decisions”

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

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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”

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”

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”

‘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”

“The Guests”: Tibetan Muslims in Eastern Himalayas

Anup Shekhar Chakraborty

Following the Dalai Lama’s apposite use of the term ‘Guest’[1] 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[2] 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[3]) 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”.[4] Continue reading ““The Guests”: Tibetan Muslims in Eastern Himalayas”

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