jump to navigation

FEATURE ARTICLE: Where are the women? The anguish of displacement in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and Sri Lanka March 10, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, D'Costa, Bina, Features, Sri Lanka , Comment

Bina D’Costa

Some 43 million people have been driven from their homes by local or cross-border warfare. The international community needs a much broader and better protection for them. The year 2009, which saw a world total of an additional 15.2 million refugees, was the worst ever in terms of the numbers who returned home voluntarily, mainly because conflicts were becoming more intractable and peace more difficult to achieve. In addition, there are some 27 million people who have been forced to flee their homes but are still living inside their own countries as IDPs (internally displaced persons). This figure does not include people uprooted by disasters like earthquakes and floods, who numbered 36 million in 2008, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Women and their children account for 80 per cent of the global displaced population.

Indeed, through my research in various camps and with hidden communities around the world, but especially in South Asia, it is clear that displaced women and their children are at serious risk. These women and children are ghettoized in horrid camps, slums and other constricted spaces either as IDPs or on the move as refugees or stateless people in other states. Unfortunately, gender-based violations of rights of displaced communities, especially in societies emerging from protracted conflicts and militarized environments, have received scant attention from the media. (more…)

FEATURE ARTICLE: Curry bashing? A Racist Australian Underbelly and the Education Industry February 6, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : D'Costa, Bina, Features, India, South Asia - General , 6comments

Bina D’Costa

Nitin Garg had arrived in Australia from Jagraon, in the northern Indian state of Punjab, expecting a promising future. Three years later, as a permanent resident and with a postgraduate degree in Commerce he left for India in a body bag. By the time the next ‘breaking news’ occurs, his violent death will be forgotten. But for his mother, his 98 year old grandfather and his siblings, Nitin’s violent stabbing at West Footscray in Melbourne will be forever remembered with the tears of losing a loved one and the guilt for making the decision to send him to the West, which is assumed to be safer than India. Nitin and perhaps his whole family’s future relied on his endurance, even if dreadfully lonely, in an alien metropolis. The south-eastern state of Victoria, one of the most multicultural locations in the world, is where 21 year old Nitin died alone on 2 January 2010. Violent deaths and assaults like his stabbing, racially motivated or not, have consequences, not only in political terms but for personal lives. (more…)

Partition: the price of freedom and the price paid by women August 6, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : D'Costa, Bina, India, Pakistan , 5comments

Bina D’Costa

The dawn of freedom from colonial rule in the subcontinent has forever been marked by the agony of Partition.  The bloodshed, sweat of terror and the tears of helplessness made the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan simultaneously the most signifying and the most traumatic moment in South Asia’s history.  What has often been forgotten, however, is the price paid by women and children.

Partition was about two specific incisions.  Firstly, the territorial incision emerged from a political conflict over the ownership of a state – a conflict about who ought to acquire the moral and legitimate authority over the entire population and colonised territory left by the British Raj. Secondly, the creation of Pakistan was a partition not simply of the subcontinent but also of the Indian Muslim community itself.

british india map

Map of British India just prior to Partition.

(more…)

‘Frozen in time’? The war crimes trial in Bangladesh July 9, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, D'Costa, Bina , 4comments

Bina D’Costa

Photo by Ashfaq Mahmud, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image for details.

‘Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done’.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported on May 14, 2009 that Pakistan’s Foreign Office “rejected Bangladesh’s demand for an apology over the alleged [emphasis added] 1971 atrocities”. The official response was that Bangladesh should not be “frozen in time” but rather move ahead. Pakistan advised that Bangladesh should “let bygones be bygones” and hoped that relations between the two countries would not become hostage to the past.

The most recent tension arose from the Bangladesh parliament’s adoption of a resolution in early 2009 to try the alleged war criminals under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 (adopted on 3 December, UN Resolution 3074). The United Nations has also announced that it would assist Bangladesh in designing and setting up a war crimes tribunal.

Pakistan attracted global condemnation because of its brutal army crackdown in 1971 in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) – an event that resulted in mass atrocities and genocide. Estimates vary, but the widely accepted figure is that between one to three million people perished during the nine months of conflict, and a further eight to ten million were forced to leave their homeland. Also, 200,000 women were victims of rape and sexual violence, with 25,000 rapes resulting in forced impregnation. In addition, at least 30,000 Biharis and West Pakistanis were killed as a result of the conflict. (more…)