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.  

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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.

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“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. 

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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.”

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.

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Public Lectures by S. Akbar Zaidi and Kanak Mani Dixit: A Report

Snehashish Mitra

The Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group in collaboration with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung organized two public lectures in Kolkata as a part of their ongoing research programme – ‘Social Mapping of Logistics, Infrastructure and India’s Look East Policy’. The public lectures were delivered by S Akbar Zaidi, an eminent economist from Pakistan currently teaching in Columbia Universiy and Kanak Mani Dixit, an eminent journalist from Nepal. The title of Zaidi’s lecture was ‘Has China taken over Pakistan’, while Dixit’s title was  ‘Nepal: Gateway into and out of South Asia’. The recent assertion of China in the geopolitics through multiple initiative such as ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) made the event timely and significant.zaidi1

S. Akbar Zaidi and Kanak Mani Dixit with Ranabir Samaddar and Paula Banerjee 

Zaidi’s lecture revolved around the multiple levels of opinions, hope and apprehensions over the CPEC in Pakistan and how Pakistan figured in the grand plans of China’s endeavour of connectivity, particularly land to sea access. CPEC has been the most talked about issue in Pakistan in recent times, particularly over the last 2 years. It has been envisaged as an initiative which would bring enormous benefits for Pakistan through Chinese investments in logistics, infrastructure, defense, biotechnology, agricultural products etc. The rhetoric used for the CPEC collaboration and the reception of the Chinese president Xi Jinping during his visit to Pakistan indicate the level of enthusiasm about CPEC in Pakistan. Zaidi apprehended that through CPEC, Pakistan is following the tradition of pandering to foreign support and endorsements like it did earlier with the USA and Saudi Arabia. Zaidi pointed out that China and Pakistan have had a cordial relation in the post 1947 period as Pakistan was the first Islamic country to recognize the People’s Republic of China, the Indo-China war of 1962 further closed the ties between the two nations. A major symbolic gesture was practiced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, finance minister of Pakistan who made the Mao jacket popular in Pakistan. Pakistan has been the third largest buyer of arms from China and received support from China during its Nuclear Programmes. CPEC is supposed to bring in investments worth $46 billion. However the other details of the CPEC are yet to be divulged in public. A leaked document of CPEC published by a reporter in a leading English daily in Pakistan has given the impression that CPEC would involve Chinese hand in almost every sector of Pakistan and would bring the major cities under surveillance and monitoring system. Disseminating Chinese culture through the intellectual community is a major agenda under CPEC. Zaidi cites the figure that around 10,000 Pakistani students are studying in China which is more than the number of Pakistanis studying in the USA. The benefits which are being doled out to Chinese business firms are not being extended to the Pakistan business class, this has led to the fear in Pakistan that the CPEC can well turn out be another East India Company in the making. Continue reading “Public Lectures by S. Akbar Zaidi and Kanak Mani Dixit: A Report”

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