Wednesday, February 22, 2017

More on US Immigration Ban

This piece is on the 'The disastrous ripple effects of Trump’s executive action on refugee resettlement'. For more, read on -

You can also check an interesting map, on US Immigration History here -

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Letter - On Rohingyas by the Asian Centre For Human Rights (ACHR)

[Comments could be mailed to - ; Web site:]

 20th February  2017

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms Yanghee Lee, isundertaking a visit to various locations of the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh from today, i.e. 20th February to 23 Febuary 2017 to examine human rights violations on the Rohingyas.

In its submission to the Special Rapporteur titled"Rohingya refugees of Myanmar: Bangladesh is facilitating ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas in Arakan and indigenous Jumma peoples in the CHTs by using the fleeing Rohingyas" (, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) stated that while gross human rights violations against the Rohingyas must be investigated but the UN human rights mechanisms cannot be oblivious to the Buddhists of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) being made into a minority in their own land by the permanent settlement of the Rohingya refugees by the Government of Bangladesh as part of its racist policy againts indigenous peoples of the CHTs. The Rohingyas  who belong to the same stock of people as the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh have already become majority in Bandarban district of the CHTs and have been involved in grabbing the lands of indigenous Buddhists and attacks on Buddhists monks and Buddhist temples in the CHTs.

Most in the international community has taken "Symptomatic Approach" to the Rohingya refugee crisis, viewed the Rohingya refugee issue only from "Rohingya/Arakan tunnel" and have failed to conduct local impact assessment on the settlement of the Rohingya refugees on the local/indigenous communities of the CHTs. The UNHCR which has access to Nayapara and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar district and is required to conduct local impact assessment essentially remained a mute witness since 1992. 

1. Current influx and ACHR's findings from the field visit to Rohingya refugees at Ukhia in January 2017

The current influx of the Rohingya refugees started following the attacks on the Border Guard Police of Myanmar in Rakhine State on 9th October 2016 by the Rohingya insurgents in which nine Myanmar police officers were killed. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reporting about “mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State”. By the end of January 2017, the United Nations was quoted of reporting influx of 65,000 new Rohingya refugees since October 2016.

From 13-15 January 2017,  researchers of of ACHR visited Rohingya refugees who had taken shelter under Ukhia Subdivision under Cox’s Bazaar. ACHR researchers found that the Rohingyas refugees are living in self-made make shift camps and have no intention to return to Myanmar in the light of the gross human rights violations and absolute lack of guarantees against non-repetition of human rights violations by the Myanmar's security forces. At the same time, the Government of Bangladesh is neither registering them nor issuing identity cards to record their origin which is indispensable for repatriation to Myanmar. There is no intention on the part of the Government of Bangladesh to repatriate the Rohingya refugees while Myanmar shamefully agreed to take back less 2,500 Rohingya refugees.

This calls of local impact assessment since influx of the Rohingya refugees from 1992.

2. From refugees to rulers: The case of the Rohingya refugees becoming effective rulers over the Bangladeshi Rakhines i.e. Marmas in Bandarban district of the CHTs 

The latest influx takes the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to about 6,00,000 i.e. upto 500,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees living outside the official camps as per UNCHR in 2014, 32,000 refugees living in the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar district as per UNHCR in 2014 and 65,000 refugees who arrived since October 2016.

Majority of these refugees settled in the CHTs. This is confirmed by the fact the national survey of the Rohingya refugees conducted by the Government of Bangladesh from 2 to 14 June 2016 focused all the three districts of the CHTs out of the six districts i.e. Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Chittagong and Patuakhali. Out of these districts, Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari are part of the CHTs Regional Council while two remaining districts i.e. Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong are bordering districts of the CHTs region. The Government of Bangladesh has refused to disclose the number of Rohingya refugees in these districts as none outside the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps claimed as Rohingyas.

The influx of the Rohingya refugees started in 1992 and as per the census of Bangladesh, the population of Bandarban district increased from 157,301 persons as per 1991 census to 298,120 persons as per 2001 census i.e. an increase of 90% against decadal growth rate of 17% in entire Bangladesh during the same period. In a submission under the Universal Period Review of the UN Human Rights Council, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact claimed that over 15,000 families of the Rohingya refugees (i.e. about 105,000 persons) had been settled in Nakkhyangchari, Ruma, Lama, Alikadam and Sadar area of Bandarban district with direct support from the authorities of the Government of Bangladesh. The Marma people whose population is less than 100,000 have already been reduced to minorities.

Paritosh Chakma

Can E.U. Shift Migrant Crisis to the Source? In Libya, the Odds Are Long

This is an interesting read on how officers in the Libyan Coast Guards were trained by the Italians to intercept and rescue migrant boats near the Libyan coast before reaching international waters. Normally, if European forces intercept migrants, then they should be taken to Italy. But if Libyans pick them up from their water, then they can be taken  to Libya instead. You can find the detail of the news in - Can E.U. Shift Migrant Crisis to the Source? In Libya, the Odds Are Long

Friday, February 03, 2017

Moral Bankruptcy of Trump’s Muslim Ban

Ravi Arvind Palat
(Professor, Department of Sociology, Binghamton University. He can be reached at

It is hard to think of a more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious policy than President Trump’s executive order “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” It barred the immigrant or non-immigrant entry into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya—for 90 days except for Christian minorities. This ban applied initially also to US legal permanent residents (LPR) who were born in these countries. And it barred the entry of refugees from Syria for 120 days.

It is morally bankrupt because LPR or ‘green card’ holders are subject to most rights of US citizens including the right not to be discriminated against and the ability to serve in the military. The executive order would have banned a serving US military officer from returning to the country after fighting in one of the numerous wars the US is waging if she or he had been born in one of the seven ‘countries of concern.’ It is telling these warriors that they can shed blood for the United States but cannot enter it. Is there anything more morally bankrupt than this?

The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees of which the US is a signatory obligates countries to take in refugees from wars on humanitarian grounds. As an international treaty it has the force of law within this country. Admission of refugees, especially from Syria, is a rigorous process. As is made clear in the official State department website (, processing of applications can take 18-24 months. But for many, it takes much longer. Five years after Sgt. Ali Alsaeedy of the 82nd Airborne division filed refugee papers for his parents—five long years during which his father died—when his mother, Hamidyah Al Saeedi finally landed in New York’s JFK airport last Saturday, she was held for 33 hours, handcuffed for some of the time, and released only after her son procured a habeas petition. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

Many of the refugees from Iraq are people, like Sgt.Alsaeedy, who had first worked for the US, saved US lives, and because of that, their own lives became vulnerable. Doesn’t the US have a moral obligation to these people? Is it morally acceptable to ban them and their aged parents? Or to hold them at airports for long? Nada, a Yazidi woman whose husband, Khalas, was an interpreter for the US forces in Iraq was turned back from boarding a flight in Dubai to come and join her husband in Washington, DC because of President Trump’s executive order. She was bundled into a plane back to Iraq where her fate is anything but certain. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

Another Yazidi woman, VianDakhil, the only Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament who had pleaded with the world to save her people from extinction at the hands of ISIS was to arrive in Washington to receive the Lantos Human Rights prize at the Capitol—a prize named after Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress. Yet she is barred by the executive order from boarding a plane to receive the award. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

We must also investigate how the refugees were created. Take the case of Libya—it was ruled by an autocrat but it also had high levels of income and standards of living. It blocked migrants from Africa crossing the Mediterranean. When a small rebellion broke out, US led airstrikes on the country which destroyed its infrastructure, killed its dictator, and led to the country being partitioned by warlords. This was the cause of the refugee crisis. In Yemen, the US and the UK supplied Saudi Arabia with munitions to intervene in a civil war that created the refugees. In Iraq, again, the 2003 invasion by US-led forces on the blatantly false claim that the country was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, destabilized the country and led to the flow of refugees. If the actions of the US directly created refugees, on humanitarian grounds does this country not have a responsibility to care for them?

When Candidate Trump called for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States in December 2015, Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana called it “offensive and unconstitutional.” House Speaker Paul Ryan railed against Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims coming to this country. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell said it was “completely and totally inconsistent with American values.” And General Mattis, the new Defence Secretary, said that a ban on Muslims would make allies think “we have lost faith in reason.” Yet, today these intellectual titans are all offering support to the president. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious than this?

In the last 40 years, not a single US citizen has been killed in North America by a citizen of the seven ‘countries of concern’ named in the executive order. Citizens of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon have been responsible for over 3000 deaths, chiefly from 9/11. Yet, nationals from these countries are not included in the exclusion order. Strangely enough, the Trump Organization has investments in most of these countries but not in the ‘countries of concern.’ Can there be anything more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious than this?

If the media and the Democrats have been relentless in critiquing the executive order, it is important to recall that the order itself did not refer to the seven countries; it barred the entry into the US “of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12).” This referred to the Omnibus Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2016 signed into law by President Obama in December 2015. It was the Obama administration which initially highlighted problems with individuals from these countries—and as we have seen none of them have been responsible for acts of ‘terrorism’ in the United States.

Even earlier, after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995—the perpetrators of which were white Christian Americans—President Clinton pushed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which was the first legislation to authorize fast-track deportation of refugees and even LPR. The Democrats, in other words, created the laws that enabled President Trump to issue his Islamophobic executive order. It is intellectually dishonest for news media to blank out this information in its report of President Trump’s executive order.

In short, the executive order violates international and US domestic law: there can be no religious exceptions to immigration; signatories to the Geneva Convention have an obligation to extend protection on a humanitarian basis. Violating these legal obligations underlines the United States’ position as an exceptional nation: an exceptionally morally bankrupt one.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

More on, No to US Immigration Policy.

Here is a news piece by Walden Bello on Trump's recent immigration ban that hardly is a national security concern. He says, the Philippine government should vocally,publicly condemn this ban on immigration on the pretext of national security, or else it will soon affect citizens across the globe, including Philippines' citizens.

To read the article, please go to -  Trump's ban: It's not about national security

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

No to Immigration Ban

Five days ago, the new American President, Donald Trump, signed an executive order proposing a 90 day suspension of visas for people belonging to seven countries. 
(Photo: The New York Magazine)

While there were widespread protests across the US, the following is the letter by academics against the executive order. 
The letter is hosted at, and can be endorsed by sending an email to

The Petition

President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order (EO) proposing a 90-day suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. The unrealistic conditions required for discontinuing the suspension make it very likely that this EO will turn into a permanent ban. We, the undersigned academics and researchers from a variety of fields of study, backgrounds, and personal convictions, would like to voice our concern and strongly oppose this measure on three grounds:

1.    This Executive Order is discriminatory. The EO unfairly targets a large group of immigrants and non-immigrants on the basis of their countries of origin, all of which are nations with a majority Muslim population. This is a major step towards implementing the stringent racial and religious profiling promised on the campaign trail. The United States is a democratic nation, and ethnic and religious profiling are in stark contrast to the values and principles we hold.
2.    This Executive Order is detrimental to the national interests of the United States. The EO significantly damages American leadership in higher education and research. US research institutes host a significant number of researchers from the nations subjected to the upcoming restrictions. From Iran alone, more than 3000 students have received PhDs from American universities in the past 3 years. The proposed EO limits collaborations with researchers from these nations by restricting entry of these researchers to the US and can potentially lead to departure of many talented individuals who are current and future researchers and entrepreneurs in the US. We strongly believe the immediate and long term consequences of this EO do not serve our national interests.
3.    This Executive Order imposes undue burden on members of our community. The people whose status in the United States would be reconsidered under this EO are our students, friends, colleagues, and members of our communities. The implementation of this EO will necessarily tear families apart by restricting entry for family members who live outside of the US and limiting the ability to travel for those who reside and work in the US. These restrictions would be applied to nearly all individuals from these countries, regardless of their immigration status or any other circumstances. This measure is fatally disruptive to the lives of these immigrants, their families, and the communities of which they form an integral part. It is inhumane, ineffective, and un-American.
These bans, as proposed, have consequences that reach beyond the scope of national security. The unethical and discriminatory treatment of law-abiding, hard-working, and well-integrated immigrants fundamentally contravenes the founding principles of the United States.
We strongly denounce this ban and urge the President to reconsider going forward with this Executive Order.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Dark World of Women Workers in a Modern City

Arup Kumar Sen

[Dr. Arup Kumar Sen works at Serampore College and he can be reached at]

[Editor's note: On 31st December, new year's eve, Bangalore was witness to wide spread mass-molestation of women. This report on the condition of women garment workers in Bangalore, is a timely reminder that gendered violence is endemic in society, and those at the bottom of the pecking order, are affected by it everyday.]

Bangalore has earned its fame as the IT capital of India. The headquarters of two IT giants, Infosys and Wipro, are located in the city. But, a dark side of city life is seldom discussed in the media. A large percentage of the city’s population, about 18 percent, live in slums. In addition to the recognized slums, a large number of poor households live in unrecognized low-income settlements and urban villages. The story of opulence and that of poverty go side by side. The recent two day protests by the garment workers in the city made the dark side of the moon more pronounced.

A notification was made on February 10, 2016 regarding change in the provisions of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Act. The workers feared that this change would impact them adversely. Their chief concern was that they would not be able to withdraw employer’s contribution to the Provident Fund corpus until the retirement age of 58. The garment workers became apprehensive of the new Ordinance passed by the Central government as they depend on withdrawals from the Provident Fund for payment of house rent and school fees of children, and for health-related emergencies and other financial emergencies. This led to the mass walk-out of “footloose” garment workers from their factories and participation in a series of spontaneous demonstrations on April 18-19, 2016, in various parts of Bangalore. It is reported that at least 50000 garment workers, most of whom were women, participated in the protests. The workers interviewed by an investigating team stated that peaceful protests turned violent on April 19 due to police brutality on women workers on day-one. Reportedly, male police officers started raining blows on the women workers, in spite of their repeated assurances that they intended to protest peacefully. Based on personal interviews with garment workers, the investigating team observed that “the level of brutality exhibited by the police throughout the protest as well as in the following weeks was due to a calculated effort by the police to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation amongst the workers.”1

In fact, fear is very much a part of everyday life of garment workers in Bangalore. There are about 500000 garment workers in the city of Bangalore, working in big, small and medium-sized factories and producing for global giants including Wal-Mart, TESCO and Primark. The industry employs mainly women workers, who constitute around ninety per cent of the total workforce. Deprived of their right to associate or unionize due to intimidation and reprisals by management, the space for articulation of protest against workplace harassment and low payment is very limited.2 To put it in the words of one woman worker, “They treat us like dogs”. There are instances of women who committed suicide to evade their oppression in everyday life. Women aged between 18 and 45 are often found running towards the factory gate to reach just on time. Otherwise, they face harassment to get permission to work for the day. In a particular case, a woman worker crashed in the factory gate and got severely injured. The security men present at the gate did not lift her. She was saved by her co-workers. In another case, a pregnant woman started feeling unwell after reporting for duty. She appealed to management for her release at around 10-10.30 am. She was granted leave at around 12.30. Finally, they let her off at 1pm. With the cooperation of a younger woman, she got into an auto and became unconscious there after giving birth to a baby, who died for lack of care. A study of PUCL, Karnataka, in collaboration with other human rights organizations, bears testimony to multiple oppressions suffered by women garment workers in Bangalore. The story of oppression as documented in the PUCL Report is summarized below:

Gate checking in the factory finishes at 9.30 AM. On days when one is late, she has to stand at the security check for an hour or so till the HR manager permits her to enter and start work. On days like this, she has to make up the lost one hour by forgoing her lunch time or staying after working hours to finish the given target for the day. The women workers also face sexual harassments including verbal abuse of a sexual nature. The male supervisors, floor in-charges and managers call them by abusive names, such as dog, pig, monkey, ‘loose’ etc. and cast aspersions on their character. The women do not report about sexual harassments to higher authorities in the fear that they would lose their jobs.  Being allowed limited toilet breaks, workers are forced to reduce their consumption of water considerably, and many women faint inside the factory due to dehydration. When a woman goes to the toilet, someone follows her to ensure that she does not waste time. No concessions are given to women workers during advanced stages of pregnancy. It is difficult to withstand such mental stress and agony. It is a common sight to find many women crying and weeping in the factory. However, they are not in a position to give farewell to this dirty world of the factory, as most of the women come from a modest financial background, and they are either the sole breadwinner of their families or their income constitutes a substantial part of their family income.3  

The future struggles of workers in the city of Bangalore should focus on minimum wages and other basic necessities for the survival of “footloose” workers. But, the multiple oppressions faced by women garment workers in their everyday life must be an organic part of the struggles for ensuring their right to live with dignity.


1.For the protests and their aftermath, see People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Karnataka, and Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, Karnataka, Bangalore Garment Workers’ Protest Demonstration: A Preliminary Fact-finding Report, 2016.
2.PUCL, Karnataka, NLSIU, Bangalore, Vimochana, Alternative Law Forum(ALF), Concern-IISC, Manthan Law and Garments Mahila Karmikara Munnade, “Production of Torture”: A Study on Working Conditions including  work place harassments faced by Women Garment Workers in Bangalore and other districts.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Arab Jews: The Eternally Displaced

Priya Singh
(Priya is a Research Scholar at the University of Calcutta and a commentator on West Asian Politics. She can be reached at

 On December 1, 2016, the World Jewish Congress, along with Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, honoured the Jews who fled from the Arab lands after the establishment of the state of Israel, at the UN headquarters in New York. Evelyn Sommer, Chair of World Jewish Congress, North America, observed that “the time has come” for the international community to take tangible measures to make sure that there was justice for the refugees, who unlike the Palestinian refugees, have been neither acknowledged nor aided in any way by the United Nations. On November 30, 2016 in an event organised by the Social Equality Ministry, Israel observed the third annual commemoration of the expulsion of an estimated 850,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries during the course of the 20th century. It was on June 23, 2014 that the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) passed a law designating November 30 as Jewish Refugee Day. The explanation for this decision was to bring to the fore the “forgotten exodus and history of the region and recognition that there were two populations displaced, Palestinian and Jewish.” Both communities were regarded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to be “bona fide” refugees. 
Prior to the 1948 mass migrations, there was a significant and vibrant Jewish community in countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. The story of the mass migration of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries, in the aftermath of the Shoah (Holocaust) and the creation of the state of Israel, has never really been part of the debate concerning Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli engagements at reconciliation. There are those who contend that the claims of the Jewish refugees and their voices have been excluded from the broader refugee narrative that has been dominated by the Palestinian refugees. Consequently, the Jewish refugee migrations conjure the notion of a Jewish Naqba (Catastrophe) along the lines of the more established and accepted Palestinian Naqba, signifying the expulsion of the Palestinians in the wake of the 1948 war, giving birth to the Palestinian refugee problem.  The contention has been severely criticised by the Palestinians who do not regard the Jews from Arab lands as refugees but as emigrants who returned to Israel, their professed homeland, either voluntarily or as part of a political decision. The Israeli government’s official position on the Jews from the Arab lands is that they are refugees who have a right to the property left behind in their country of origin. The Jewish exodus of 1948 apparently involved the migration of an estimated 850, 000 Jews from Arab and Muslim Lands. The Palestinian exodus of 1948, on the other hand is said to have witnessed the expulsion of an estimated 720, 000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes.  The Palestinian Arabs fled to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and to nearby countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The Arab Jews migrated to the new state of Israel, United States, west Europe and south America.
The term Arab Jews refers to people of Jewish faith historically connected with the Arab Muslim world. The Arab Jews had been thoroughly Arabized, proficient in Arabic and had become an indelible part of the social and cultural life in their nations of origin. In countries like Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Tunisia, Jews occupied high economic and political positions though the picture was not idyllic at all times and there were the intermittent hurdles, instances of discrimination and violence as well. While Israel considers Arab Jews to be genetically Arab, Arabs regard them as inadequately Arab. The historical process that led to the displacement of the Palestinians was intrinsically linked with the process that expelled the Arab Jews from their land of origin. As a result, both communities were deprived of their property, land, national and political rights. The Arab Jews were uprooted from their roots in the Arab world and from their deeply entrenched history and culture in Israel. Unlike the Palestinians who have nurtured the shared advocacy of yearning for their land of origin in their diasporic existence, the Arab Jews have been confined to a situation of no return wherein they are prohibited from evoking nostalgia of belonging to their place of origin. The Arab Jews were painstakingly displaced from the Arab world and “de-Arabized.”  The Zionist ideology as well as the Arab national discourse considered “Arabness” and “Jewishness” as exclusive, binary categories. The state of Israel in the process of creating a Jewish nation, initiated the project of transforming the Arab Jews into Israeli Jews, which entailed a meticulous mobilisation of the educational and social apparatus of the state. A new term, Mizrahim (signifying “Easterners” or “Orientals”) was coined for the Jews from the Arab and Muslim world, which has become popular since the 1990s, indicative of both the origin and experience of the non-Ashkenazi (Jews of central or eastern European descent)Jews in Israel.

Once considered as  “backward” people who could destabilize Israel’s assertion of being a colony of the “civilised” west in the Middle East, only to be included in the nation-building project purely because of the holocaust, the Mizrahis enjoy a paradoxical existence in modern day Israel. The ruptures and fault lines within Israeli society and polity has not really succeeded in representing the warped identity of the Mizrahis. There exists a deep rooted resentment among the Mizrahis for the Ashkenazis, who in turn harbour a deep sense of mistrust for the Arab Jews. The Ashkenazis, by and large perceived the Mizrahis as having more in common with Palestinians than Jews, as such the state segregated Mizrahim from the Ashkenazim by means of separate communities and education systems, where Arabic was prohibited. The disconnect continues till date.

However, just as fused identities are continually evolving in nature, the Mizrahis continue to keep the connect by way of an animated exchange of ideas with Arab, Turkic, Greek, Indian, and Iranian popular cultures primarily through the medium of television, films, music videos and concerts that shatter the Eurocentric Israeli approach. Such instances of participation represent a type of subconscious contravention of a prohibited longing culminating in the construction of a new identity, which does not view Arabs and Arabness in contrast or contradictory to something but rather perceives “Arab” as an inherent, fundamental and completely spontaneous component of the Mizrahi identity. There has been some resistance from the Arab Jews, politically, since the 1970s when a local chapter of the Black Panthers, named after the militant African-American group in the United States was constituted replicating its demands for radical change. This was followed by the Keshet movement demanding an equitable peace for Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the cultural, political, and economic incorporation of Israel/Palestine into the Middle East in the process putting to close the binaries and one-dimensional chronicling of Middle Eastern identities.


Sino-Bangladesh Entente: A Looming Concern for India?

Srimanti Sarkar

(Srimanti is a Research Scholar at the Department of Political Science, University of Calcutta, and can be reached at

Bangladesh today is fast emerging as a vibrant economy with significant advancements taking place especially in its development sector. It has a huge labour force, a potential market, and a very significant geo-strategic location in between the three major economies, viz. India, Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. This has attracted countries around the world and especially in the region, including China, to take keen interest in Bangladesh. China also has been regarded as a plausible regional partner and a “time-tested, all-weather” friend by Bangladesh with whom bilateral relationship has been clear of the contingencies of changing political regimes. Likewise, China even considers a well-developed Bangladesh an “asset” for her with a potential to prosper as a vibrant economy.  The growing Sino-Bangladesh synergy should be understood in light of the major cooperative measures undertaken in sectors like trade, investment and infrastructural development, defence, energy, culture and environment between the two countries.
But, whether China’s increasing clout in Bangladesh is seemingly an ‘entente’ having major socio-economic and geo-strategic implications is a matter to carefully ponder upon. While China strives to realise, it’s so called, “Chinese Dream”[1]—it will be judicious to assess whether Sino-Bangladesh interests converge to affect India’s position in a negative way. The following section will try to appraise whether Sino-Bangladesh ties pose an immediate and impending threat upon India.

The fast normalisation and affirmative conditioning of the Sino-Bangladesh bilateral relations though seem to be a natural upshot of regionalism; when looked from a security perspective hints a critical geo-strategic concern for India. Bangladesh’s growing closeness with China is, more than often, seen as a tactic by the former to counter balance India out of, what Keohane’s conceptualises as, the ‘Lilliputians’ Dilemma’. It implies that small states primarily adopts three broad policies while acting alone vis-a-vis big states—viz. a  passive  strategy  of  renunciation,  an  active  strategy  designed  to  alter  the  external  environment  in  their  favour  (e.g.,  subversion), or a defensive strategy helping them to preserve the status quo (e.g., traditional diplomacy, deterrence)—in order to cope with their high (and rising) costs of independence. Although Bangladesh cannot be literally categorised as a ‘small’ state in terms of its geographical size and population, it is perceptively a ‘small power’ compared to both India and China. Accordingly, Bangladesh seems to adopt the third strategy of maintaining a status quo with regard to India—as pursuing a passive strategy of renunciation will be impractical given her unavoidable dependence on India (which almost entirely surrounds Bangladesh from all the three sides), and altering India’s pre-dominance in the region is literally not feasible (which by virtue of her sheer size and huge repository of all kinds of resources is the largest power in South Asia)—while fostering closer ties with China in an attempt to diversify her over dependence on India. But, Bangladesh seems to be a geo-strategically significant country for China as well, and the growing Sino-Bangladesh relations is often perceived as an integral part of China’s, so-called, “Look South and South-East Asia Policy” to which Bangladesh acts as a potential gateway. Considering China’s keen policy overtures in South Asia, where India is a core country, it is more than often apprehended that China is trying to build a chain of influence around India – in her neighbourhood – in order to lessen India’s geo-political clout in the region. China has been pro-active regarding her ‘One Belt and One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, which has gained significant traction. Through the OBOR initiative, China attempts to curve out a continental geo-strategic[2] and maritime realm[3] which will have definite implications across regions of Asia as well as South Asia. Under the OBOR initiative, the ‘Belt and Road’ are expected to loop and branch and meet at critical points; and Bangladesh features in both the overland component of the initiate–-via the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC); as well as in the maritime component—as a port hub for the Maritime Silk Road.

For China, the BCIM Corridor is a key corridor in its south-eastern region, just like the geo-strategically significant China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in its west. For Bangladesh, the corridor is central because it will help attract India’s $1.2 billion market in the west, China’s $1.4 billion market in the north and Myanmar’s $70 million market in the east. With Bangladesh literally posited in the middle and with its own market pull of 160 million people it will be able to reap substantial benefits.[4] However, with excellent connections developed among these huge markets, a frenzy of economic activity will be inevitable among all the four countries as well. India, off late has shown enthusiasm in taking ahead the BCIM-EC which will link Kolkata with Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, passing through Myanmar and Bangladesh, with Mandalay and Dhaka as the focal points. But, for India some of the considerations have been that, this route does not follow  the meandering  Asian  Highway-1  route  from Imphal  through  the  Assam  Valley and  Meghalaya to  Bangladesh.  Instead it cuts directly across the Barak Valley through Silchar-Karimganj-Sutarkandi. This renders somewhat futile the expectations of developing and connecting India’s north eastern region (NER) by making the corridor pass through the states of Nagaland, Arunachal, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, as well as Sikkim. However, the Indian government has proposed to build roads and railway linkages which will pass through the landlocked regions like Barak Valley, Tripura and Mizoram and subsequently join the BCIM Corridor. This will then provide the much needed boost in developing India’s NER

Traveller, Refugee: The Rohingya Refugee Crisis in the light of the Condé Nast controversy.

Apala Kundu

(Apala is a student of the Department of English, M.A., at Presidency University, and can be reached at

International celebrity Priyanka Chopra’s appearance in an “insensitive” piece of attire- a shirt that has the words “migrant”, “refugee” and “outsider” crossed out in red while the word “traveller” stands out- on the cover of the October-November 2016 issue of Condé Nast Traveller India magazine, sparked widespread controversy and furore on the social media platform, particularly on Twitter. Outraged Twitter users lashed out at Chopra for what they considered an “offensive” and “insensitive” act that sent out a “privileged” and “elitist” message, unheeding of the actual plight of refugees. With her act making international headlines and inviting scathing criticism from people all over the world, Chopra has since issued a public apology through India’s NDTV news channel stating that she was “really apologetic about the fact that sentiments were hurt” (The Guardian 2016), claiming that the magazine’s campaign had been directed towards addressing the issue of xenophobia. The magazine too came out in defence of its cover, arguing that the intention of the photograph was to drive home its belief in a world without borders. “Whether we are moving across oceans or just a few kilometres, or in our mind's eye, into a completely different world, whether we are doing so due to free will or circumstance - we are all travellers” (BBC News 2016). Indubitably, the content of the cover is disturbing. But far more than insensitivity, the strand of argument forwarded in its defence exposes the glaring ignorance and insouciance that informs such ways of thinking.

Refugee movements and flows constitute one of the most important and challenging problems confronting the international community today in the post- Cold War era. But the issue of refugee flows is more than just a humanitarian concern and calls for more than just a humanitarian response. Refugee movements are inextricably intertwined with political, economic, social and security issues that are of immense concern to both “the sending and the receiving countries” (Loescher 1993, 12). The prevention and solution of the refugee problem therefore, “are not just matters of international charity or humanitarian action by UNHCR [United Nations Refugee Agency] and other agencies; ultimately they depend on wider political and diplomatic actions taken by regional and extra-regional states and international organizations to manage regional and ethnic conflicts and to initiate the reintegration of refugees and other displaced people” (12).  

The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defined refugees as “any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” This widely accepted definition of a refugee is deeply imbued with a sense of compulsion, which stands in stark contrast to the notions of voluntary choice, luxury and leisure that inform the idea of travel. Refugee flows should be seen for what they are, that is, individual and collective acts of fleeing across the physical borders of the homeland, motivated by a strong fear of persecution or even at times, of death.  Publisher Arpita Das (2016), in her The Huffington Post blog, puts it succinctly: “In our times, these words, ‘refugee’, ‘immigrant’ . . . are important markers of many identities which the wearer of that label is not willing to eschew for something as privileged, as generic as ‘traveller’. . . . The lack of choice in removing one's home and hearth from the familiar to the alien is one fraught with heartbreak and the feeling of being cornered.” The argument espoused by the magazine in its defence is thus exposed as “the outcome of a privileged view of a global issue that does not touch the holder of the view in the least, but is perceived as something which ought to feature in their narrative because it is so ‘topical’” (Das 2016).

Incidentally, the topicality of this narrative serves to unmask yet another disquieting dimension of the refugee crisis that confronts the world today. Priyanka Chopra’s apology, Condé Nast’s defence statement, media coverage of the controversy and the general public’s responses to the controversy on Twitter- all of these make conspicuous the bias in the response of the international community and international media to the global refugee crisis. For though global in character the refugee crisis is, certain instances of it receive conscious media focus and reportage, and involve greater participation from member states of the international community, while others are kept out of the spotlight, and consequently, outside public consciousness. This bias takes the form of a First World-Third world binary, which is reflective of the neo-colonialist character of the international community at present.

Absence of Citizenship Hinders Employment: An Analysis of the Relationship between Education of Refugee Youth and Employment Opportunities

Maneesh P 

(1Project fellow, Department of Econometrics, School of Economics, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai Tamil Nadu, India.He can be reached at

The freedom of movement of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees was restricted at the time of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and they were confined within the camps. During this period refugees suffered alot due to oppressive rules and regulations and stringent security measures were adopted to preclude the connection with LTTE. Refugees were not allowed to work outside the camp during this period and those staying outside the camps were arrested and shifted to government camps. The situation has changed since then and refugees enjoy the freedom of movement with very few restrictions. The government has been providing free education upto the XIIth standard in government and government aided schools. In addition, they provide free note books, text books, uniforms, noon meals and bus passes. A free bicycle is also given to students studying in the XIth standard. In the earlier years refugees were allowed to go out and earn a living with an agreement of returning to the camp by 6.00 p.m every day. But now they may go out at any time and stay anywhere and are required to present themselves in the camp one day in a month to receive the monthly dole that they are entitled to. If he/she is absent without a genuine reason he/she will lose the registration in the camp. Families in a good economic position have settled outside the camp. These families have to register themselves in the nearest police station for security reasons. Refugee girls in the camps have opted for a nursing course so that they may go abroad to make a decent living. The paradox is that the government has been providing educational opportunities to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees without creating opportunities for employment. Youth living in the camps opt for private sector jobs on completion of their education. Moreover, the monthly dole provided by the government to each member of the household is not enough to meet the household expenses, which may induce the children to go out to work instead of going to school.
The relationship between the dropout rate of refugee children from school and the absence of employment in the government sector has not been explored by researchers. Even though a refugee youth has completed secondary education or degree, he/she has to get a job in the private sector or the unorganised sector as manual labourer. There is often no connection between their educational status and the kind of employment they get engaged with. Since the flow of refugees in the local labour market has resulted in a fall in wage level and refugees are willing to undertake risky jobs that local people abstain from, trade unions are fighting for job security and minimum wages. Refugees refrain from organising themselves in a union to demand their rights due to over reliance on government schemes and absence of citizenship. Refugees have the fear that if they protest against government rules and regulations the government may completely withdraw welfare services and impose strict regulations.  Therefore refugees have been obeying government rules and regulations and lead an unsatisfactory life without any vision of the future.
India has not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention (Geneva Convention) and the 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees neither has it enacted domestic law for refugees. The legal status of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India is officially governed by the Foreigners Act 1946 and The Citizenship Act 1955 which defines all non-citizens who enter without visas to be illegal migrants, with no exception for refugees or asylum seekers. India has not adopted a national refugee legislation nor have the national asylum procedures been established, but still refugees are provided with accommodation and financial support.  India has decided not to give permanent resident status or Indian citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, expecting them to return to their home land following the conclusion of the war. As of January 2016, there are 64,079 refugees living in 108 government authorised camps in Tamil Nadu.

Table 1: Camp population abstract

Month & 
Child Male

Source: Department Of Rehabilitation, Tamil Nadu

Absence of right to access government jobs in India has compelled the refugees to get engaged in unorganized manual labour market and private sector. Agriculture and fishing was the job of these refugees when they were in Sri Lanka. Refugees have no right to buy land or property to start a business or engage in agriculture. Therefore, most of them are involved in painting, digging, construction works and agriculture on other person’s land. This work is generally available only a few days in a month and they stay unemployed the remaining days. 

              In 2011, 1728 persons were returned to Sri Lanka and 1291 persons in 2012. The return of refugees to Sri Lanka has been declining gradually (see figure 1). In 2013, 273 families, (718 members) were returned to Sri Lanka. Likewise, 453 persons were returned to their native places in Sri Lanka during 2015. In the beginning of 2016, 50 families consisting of 163 persons were returned to Sri Lanka. The educated refugees return to Sri Lanka to renew their passport so that they may go to foreign countries in search of a job.
Refugees are unskilled labours therefore they have least bargaining power for higher wage rates. Simultaneously, the increase in supply of labour force in the domestic labour market has resulted in a fall in wage rate. Refugees have experienced discrimination in payment and recruitment. Refugee camps are located in interior parts of Tamil Nadu where employment opportunities are limited. If a refugee youth is made to discontinue his education, he will enter the local labour market to search jobs. This will result in further decline in the wage rate. It is necessary to give citizenship and access to government jobs to these refugees in order to curtail dropout of refugee youth and solving their unemployment problems. Refugees can achieve higher socio-economic well being only by ensuring better employment and effective social security schemes. Provision of education in skill development and loans to setup small business units through NGOs and banks will help to reduce the problem of unemployment. 


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