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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 , comments closed

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…)

Work permits for Bangladeshi immigrants in India March 8, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

Bangladesh is not only one of the most densely populated countries but also among the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters. Gautam Ghosh’s award winning movie Padma Nadir Majhi (The Boatman of River Padma, 1993) beautifully captures the dilemma of people locked in a grim existential struggle against nature. The movie opens with the birth of a child and a chunk of river bank falling into water and ends with people compelled to go to a tiger and reptile-infested island. Ghosh’s characters cannot be stopped by any manmade boundary. They would also be prepared to work at unbelievably low wages, which ensures a steady demand for their labour in neighbouring India. In the foreseeable future, climate change is likely to accentuate their existential crisis and by implication, the problem of “illegal” Bangladeshis in India. Hidden in the midst of this sea of humanity are drug-traffickers, arms smugglers, and Islamic terrorists. The Indian government obviously finds it impossible to screen the immigrants.

To address this problem, the Indian government has already fenced as much as half of the 4053 km long Indo-Bangladesh border. However, complete fencing will be hampered by riverine landscape and incomplete demarcation of the international boundary. Also, even if it is feasible, complete fencing will block the easiest escape route for the targets of Islamic extremism including not only non-Muslims but also syncretic Muslim Bauls, Ahmediyas, etc. People such as Taslima Nasreen are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The share of minority religions in Bangladesh’s population has, in fact, halved since its independence. The struggle for scarce resources is routinely, and conveniently, provided a communal cover, which allows Islamic extremists to fish in a troubled delta. A major atrocity against fenced-out minorities of Bangladesh will translate into greater support for Hindu majoritarian parties in India, which will endanger Indian minorities as well as existing Bangladeshi immigrants and provide an ex-post justification for attacks on minorities in Bangladesh. So, complete fencing will strengthen religious extremists on both sides of the border. Faith-based screening of immigrants at designated points along a completely fenced border will permit the vulnerable to escape. But it will allow the Islamic extremists to portray India as a Hindu majoritarian country with which Bangladesh cannot be friendly. In any case, faith-based screening will be struck down by the Supreme Court as repugnant to the basic structure of the Indian constitution. It will also be opposed by Indian politicians who depend on immigrant votes or have links with human traffickers.

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Effectiveness of Track II in promoting BCIM: The K2K example January 28, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, India, Mishra, Binoda Kumar , comments closed

Binoda Kumar Mishra

The idea behind BCIM

Originating in 1999 as the Kunming Initiative, the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (hereafter BCIM) initiative is now  gathered for its 9th forum. There is optimism about the prospects of the initiative in promoting regional cooperation between the geographically contiguous BCIM countries. Contiguous countries all over the world are coming together to form blocs to harness benefits from the opportunities created by globalisation. Realising this, four institutes from the four countries initiated this idea of involving stake-holders and using experts to promote mutual development.

The region is not only geographically contiguous but also complementary in economic terms. But there are also certain negative similarities such as underdevelopment. Trans-border crime and other non-traditional threats are equally threatening. The idea behind BCIM is to address these issues and create an environment for mutual development focusing on the contiguous region. The initiative also seeks to promote people-to-people contact through tourism and cultural exchanges. And at the base is the objective of improving of trade and commerce .

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

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

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…)