“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”

On violence of the normal times: A review of Anveshi Broadsheet on Violence

Mohamed Shafeeq K

Anveshi Centre for Research in Women’s Studies, based in Hyderabad has brought out its latest broadsheet on the issue of Violence: Event and Structure (it can be accessed here).  The broadsheet flips the commonsensical understanding of violence as an aberrational outburst interrupting normalcy to illustrate the complex and stealthy ways in which violence – inasmuch as the term means violations of life, dignity, and property – is perpetrated in extraordinary events and unusual places as much as in daily lives and routine methods.  The editors, Parthasarathi Muthukkaruppan and Samata Biswas, set out the following objectives in their editorial: (i) to recognise violence as enmeshed in peaceful times too, (ii) to identify violence in “norms”, “values”, representations, (iii) to illustrate institutional violence (iv) in their non-physical forms too, and (v) to expose the ideology that deems certain violence legitimate. As a supplement to the editorial, the broadsheet summarizes Slavoj Žižek’s book Violence: Six Sideways Reflections where Žižek elaborates on three kinds of violence: systemic, where the violence is institutional and enmeshed in the “normal” working of politics and economy; symbolic, where the violence is the violence of language as it modulates the narration of violence; and subjective, by which is meant our commonsensical understanding of violence, like terrorism.  While the former two do not give the appearance of violence and is often understood to be the normal state of things, it is the third which captures our attention and demands our action.  The objective of critique is to not be swallowed by the subjective dimensions but maintain a critique detached enough to be able to see the systemic and symbolic aspects of violence which causes and docks the subjective ones. Continue reading “On violence of the normal times: A review of Anveshi Broadsheet on Violence”

Why does manual scavenging continue to exist in Tamil Nadu?

V. Ramaswamy & V. Srinivasan

“Few object to liberty in the sense of a right to free movement, in the sense of a right to life and limb. There is no objection to liberty in the sense of a right to property, tools, and materials, as being necessary for earning a living, to keep the body in a due state of health. Why not allow a person the liberty to benefit from an effective and competent use of a person’s powers? The supporters of Caste who would allow liberty in the sense of a right to life, limb, and property, would not readily consent to liberty in this sense, inasmuch as it involves liberty to choose one’s profession.

But to object to this kind of liberty is to perpetuate slavery. For slavery does not merely mean a legalized form of subjection. It means a state of society in which some men are forced to accept from others the purposes which control their conduct. This condition obtains even where there is no slavery in the legal sense. It is found where, as in the Caste System, some persons are compelled to carry on certain prescribed callings which are not of their choice.”

– B.R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste. Continue reading “Why does manual scavenging continue to exist in Tamil Nadu?”

Male Out-Migration and Empowerment of Women Left Behind in Indian Sunderbans

Sourodeep Bose, Shatabdi Saha, Rupak Goswami.

Farming in the Sundarbans region is typically rainfed, constrained by hostile and challenged ecosystems, and is characterized by low input use and poor crop productivity. The male farmers, due to fragmented land holding and frequent crop failure (as a result ofbiophysical constraints, and extreme climatic events), are compelled to migrate to different districts of West Bengal, to other states, or even to other countries to sustain their livelihoods. Their female counterparts are ‘left-behind’ in the villages and perform a wide array of works, both domestic and farm-related. Domination, deprivation and discrimination, along with lack of recognition and remuneration for tremendous workload are common for these left-behind women in a patriarchal society. But, this expansion of gender role may slowly and consistently lead to autonomy of marginal women in this marginal land. A conclusive assertion, however, asks for scholastic empirical engagement.

This short excerpt is taken from research conducted as part of a master’s dissertation work in the field of rural development. The study is placed within the context of ‘migration left behind nexus’ literature (Toyota et al. 2007), which focuses on the life experiences and well-being of the women living at the origin during their husband’s absence. The aim of the project is to understand the effect of male out-migration on the lives of left-behind women in selected areas of Indian Sunderbans.  The existing literature under the ‘migration-left-behind nexus’ is more engaged with transnational migration (Sarkar and Islam, 2014) and very few of them explicitly deal with circular and recursivemigration, a common feature in many developing nations, owing to the seasonal nature of their farming. Moreover, attempt to understand the impact of male outmigration within the framework of women empowerment has been largely absent (Sinha et al., 2012).

Continue reading “Male Out-Migration and Empowerment of Women Left Behind in Indian Sunderbans”

Kitaiskii Bazar

Anita Sengupta

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.

Continue reading “Kitaiskii Bazar”

Understanding Trafficking in West Bengal: Some Personal Experiences

Asokendu Sengupta

(Prof. Sengupta is Former Chairperson, West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights. This two part series is informed by his experiences as well as expertise in the field. This is the second part.)

I served as the Chairperson, West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights for about 2 years (2014-16). I also had the opportunity to act as the Chairman, State Level Inspection Team (SLIT) & State Level Inspection & Monitoring (SLIM) Committee, during 2012-15. From my experiences I have learnt that it is very difficult to identify the cases of trafficking as it is often made in guise of marriage, recruitment of domestic worker or workers for shops etc. I will share a few cases with my readers that will reflect on the complex nature of the problem and the difficulties of (and within) the administration.

Case I

Once I visited Uttarpara Children’s Home along with Shri Bidhan Bhattacharya & Shri Sujato Bhadra, members of SLIM. A group of women surrounded us as soon as we reached there. We learnt that they were all trafficked Bengali girls who had been rescued from Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Police, by order of an appropriate court, transferred these Bengali-speaking girls to the West Bengal authorities. As a temporary measure, the authorities here had dumped them at Uttarpara Children’s Home. Naturally the Home management was not at all happy with this. They were not equipped or trained to handle such trafficked victims. Moreover, as they rightly pointed out, these women were all adults. They were misfits in a children’s Home.

We also learnt that the Government had already arranged for an alternative shelter for them. But the women were unsatisfied. They demanded a better shelter and also an assurance from us ( unfortunately they considered us representatives of the government authority) that they would be allowed to use mobile phones and other gadgets as well as participate in the profession they were in for last seven months. They did not want the government to intervene.

Being inexperienced & ignorant, I asked “Why! Don’t you like to be reintegrated with your family or community? Should we not try for that?”

They rejected my proposal unanimously. They laughed at me instead. Continue reading “Understanding Trafficking in West Bengal: Some Personal Experiences”


Asokendu Sengupta

(Prof. Sengupta is Former Chairperson, West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights. This two part series is informed by his experiences as well as expertise in the field. This is the first part.)

Over 130 children have been reported missing every day this year. About 15,988 children were reported missing this year till April 2015, of which over half (6,921) were untraced.

Times of India /TNN | Jul 24, 2015

“Children who have gone missing were at the risk of being trafficked. … Every 30 seconds a child runs away from his home!”

Devi Sirohi, Chairperson, Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights(CCPCR), Keynote address at the Workshop on Child Trafficking,12-03-2015


Trafficking & Child Trafficking

It is difficult to find a comprehensive definition of trafficking in persons. NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) defines trafficking as trade in human, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation for the traffickers or others; or for the extraction of organs or tissues, including surrogacy and ova removal; or for providing a spouse in the context of forced marriages. Palermo Protocol defines trafficking in persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat, or force or coercion, abduction, or fraud, deception, abuse of power, position of vulnerability, giving or receiving payments/benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Thus, the thrusts of the definitions of NCPCR and Palermo Protocol are different. While the former emphasises on the purposes of trafficking, the latter’s stress is on the act itself. In any study of trafficking it is important to focus on the child trafficking as NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) Action Research has established a direct linkage between ‘Human Trafficking’ and ‘Missing Children’.[1] Missing children are sold as bonded labourers, child prostitutes, beggars, drug peddlers, sold for illicit trading of organs etc. These children are normally from economically and socially disadvantaged marginalized sections.


The sweat of Kolkata: Paying homage to its people and their “labour-power”

Texts and images by Giorgio Grappi.

(Dr. Grappi works on the transformation of the State form and logistical corridors. He explored India several times. The pictures attached to this text were shot in 2011. He can be reached at giorgio.grappi@unibo.it)

Kolkata_037Kolkata is many things. Kolkata constantly changes. Kolkata reshapes itself. Calcutta lasts. Under the scratches of its many developments, the people of Kolkata ignite the city with their labour power. At the outskirts of the city, moving from Howrah towards the ancient French colony of Chandannagar, the blackened bricks of the old mills dot the green fields of Bengal.


Once, this land was the promise of colonial development. Then it became the dream of an independent India, fluctuating between the words of the poet, the guns and the bombs, and the workers’ sweat. On the opposite side, Rajarhat is now becoming the Pandora’s box of the dreams of the uninhibited middle class. Rajarhat wants to forget Calcutta, yet Rajarhat is Kolkata. Continue reading “The sweat of Kolkata: Paying homage to its people and their “labour-power””

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑