Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Stateless in South Asia: The Chakmas between Bangladesh and India

Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Stateless in South Asia: The Chakmas between Bangladesh and India

Article excerpt

Deepak K. Singh

Sage Publication, India, 2010, Page 289, Price Rs. 695

The Stateless in South Asia by Deepak K. Singh complied with nine chapters is the only book I could say from India on stateless refugees as a central theme. It is forwarded by Ramchandra Guha suggests that most of the people who are writing on the issue related to northeast are mainly outsider and never born in the particular state. Indian scholars have tended to work on their linguistic or geographical regions. This book focuses on the Myron Weiner thesis on how Chakmas become rejected people in Chittagong Hill Tract (Bangladesh) and unwanted people in Arunachal Pradesh (India). The study mainly examines the interactions between the displaced Chakmas and the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Book historically explores the human predicament of one of the earliest episodes of mass displacement in the history of modern South Asia which made a very holistic study of what turned out to be one of the most intractable refugee issues.

India has dealt with the issues of refugees on a bilateral basis. India's refugee regime generally confirms to the international instruments on the subject without, giving a formal shape to all practices adopted by in a form of separate statute. The current position in India is that they are dealt with under the existing Indian laws, both general as well as special, which is applicable to all the foreigners who came to India over a period of time. This is only because there is no separate law and policies to deal with refugees. India do not have a specific and separate law to govern refugees. The Chakma influx into India can be traced to the partition of the sub-continent from the beginning. Inconsistency and political expediency governed India's CHT policy. Until the 1970s, its policy vis-a-vis Chakmas was lackadaisical and short-sighted. The first influx of the refugees took place shortly after partition when 40,000 Chakma families fled to India. Having housed and absorbed a large number of non-Muslim Chakmas from East-Pakistan, India rehabilitated them first in North Indian states and later in the North Eastern states of India. The manageable number of the Chakmas, their widespread dispersal in the sparsely populated Northeast and their ethnic proximity largely mitigated any potential for opposition from the state government and civil society groups. Further more, absorption was feasible partly because ethnic consciousness in the Northeast was still in its infancy. In the region, human rights violation is also in peak and very common. For example, Chakmas children have no right to get admission in schools, not allowed to get government jobs, public distribution system properly stopped, trading license being cancelled, markets are not allowed to sell their goods, medical facilities completely stopped, as well as electricity, drinking water roads etc. are completely blocked. India's refugee regime is yet to evolve a transparent framework linking rights, laws and policies. It results in great prevarication between policies and practices.

Though Singh by training is a political scientist but he also draws innovatively upon the work of anthropologist, sociologist and historian. His first take is to show the case of Chakmas as the first victims of environmental/developmental displacements. He mainly focuses on the political and religious persecutions which affect the lives of displaced persons. This book shows that how the issue of citizenship is being played in the democratic country like India. Book suggests very strongly that the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh do not want to be the second class citizens like the dalits, adivasis and muslims. Equally important is the issue of hosting Arunachalees relating to their growing fears of cultural annihilation in the wake of Chakmas is politically glorified in the region. …

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