Thursday, November 08, 2007

CRG’ s Initiatives to Engage NHRC in the Series of Workshops on Displacement in India

Ishita Dey

Thousands of dalits from across the country reportedly reached Delhi on foot after walking for 26 days. As I pen down my reflections on the recently concluded workshops organized by CRG, one is left to ponder why so many people had to come down on the streets claiming right to land after 60 years of independence. The right to food, water, land and employment continues to haunt the dispossessed and displaced till date. Despite the policy exercises by the National and state governments and the institutionalization of the quasi-autonomous institutions like NHRC and State Human Rights Commissions it is time we reflect about the people’s movements and responsibility to protect – the onus and its dynamics?
In the recently concluded CRG workshop, we pondered on these issues with a range of civil society organizations, independent social activists, academics and lawyers. While all of us agreed on the systematic pattern of displacement and the way it has been naturalized through a rebuilding of populist consensus under the garb of the policy exercise; we tried to engage with NHRC and State Human Rights representative in the course of the three workshops. In the first workshop we had the pleasure to interact with the three NHRC representatives who were involved in various rescue operations against trafficking of women and children. There was a concern among the participants that the issues affecting the grassroots are often subtle and fails to grab attention. Dr. K. M. Parivelan from UNDP pointed out that the Chennai airport expansion will displace thousands and one of the questions raised was whether or NHRC could intervene in such cases. Even Dr. Ranabir Samaddar, Director,CRG felt that the catastrophic things grab more attention than the endemic things. He cited that humanitarian agencies in the recent past have conducted public hearings, which have been instrumental in mobilizing people and meeting the requirements of the people. He felt that NHRC should conduct public hearings and that could be an effective way to address people’s issues rather than wait for redressal of complaints. One of the main concerns raised by the activists, media persons and academics was the process of addressing the problems. Most of the people felt that mere redressal of complaints cannot be an effective way of addressing the concerns. Participants were also critical of NHRC’s role in the framing of the NRP 2006. The interaction and dialogue with NHRC participants was only restricted to the Bangalore workshop. Unfortunately the participants in the Bhubaneshwar and Kolkata dialogue could not interact with the NHRC personnel. Thorough this forum we want to draw attention to some of the problems raised in the Kolkata Workshop.
1.One of the main concerns of the Kolkata workshop was to understand the policy exercise. CRG had organized a one-day deliberation in Delhi to develop a critique of the R&R policy. The meeting was attended by a select group of academicians, lawyers and activists. In this meeting, we came to a consensus that NRP2006 should be read with the communal violence bill to understand one concern whether or not the proliferation of policy exercise actually reflects the state responsibility to protect or is it a way of copying with developmental strategies. The details of the proceedings are available in our publication. (For details of the report contact us at
2.Another concern voiced by participants from Ganga Bhangan Pratirodh Action Nagorik Committee, Panchanandapur, Bangitola, Malda was the enormous displacement caused by the construction of Farakka Barrage. Prior to the construction of the Farakka Barrage the river erosion was restricted to a limited area in Malda District. Since the construction of the Barrage, the erosion has been on the eastern bank and resulted in displacing thousand of people living on the east bank in the district of Malda. Currently the residents of the Malda town, NH43 and the railway tracks will be affected due to the massive erosion. The details are available in a book written by Dr. Kalyan Rudra , Ganga Bhangan Katha.
Gangetic erosion has displaced 5 lakh people. 14 high schools and Madrasas as well as more than a hundred primary schools along with many private educational institutes and I.C.D.S. centers have been destroyed. The schools have been rebuilt at locations, which are not easily accessible to the children of the locality resulting in increase in dropout rates.
About 125 thousand people are forced to live on alluvial deposited land in the middle of the river (locally they are called “charvari”). They are not recognized as “inhabitants” of the Malda West Bengal Government.
The only ray of hope for the victims of erosion amidst all of these lay in Section II of W.B. L.R. Act which guaranteed that the land eroded by any river would belong to its previous owner if it submerged as alleviated land within 20 years from the year of its being eroded. The government of West Bengal through the amendment in 2000 abolished this section. This amendment has taken way their right to land eroded by the river. This amendment has been done without any prior notice and information or warding compensation as it reads, “ Any land gained by- gradual accession to a plot of land, within from the recess of a river or of the sea, shall vest in the state Government and the raiyat who owns the plot of land shall not be entitled to retain such land as an accretion there to”.

NGOs Public Statement on the Security Situation of Iraqi Refugees in Lebanon

We, the undersigned, note with growing concern the worsening security situation of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon.
Random and targeted arrests and detention of Iraqi refugees have increased recently solely on grounds of illegal entry and/or illegal stay.
According to reports, 432 Iraqis were in detention in July, of whom 150 were arrested in the first week of July only. The majority of them had been registered with UNHCR and hold Refugee Status Certificate. The refugee certificate issued by UNHCR is not being respected by the arresting authorities, nor by the judges, prosecutors, or the Lebanese General Security Office.
Many are kept in detention after the expiry of their sentences as a coercive measure to force them to agree to be sent back to Iraq. IOM is reportedly assisting for these “voluntary return” convoys. This is contrary to UNHCR advising against returns to Iraq. By acting contrary to UNHCR guidelines and without its prior consultation, IOM seriously undermined the protection role and responsibility of the UN Refugee Agency.
The arrest and detention and threat of “deportation” under the cover of “voluntary return” is a flagrant violation of the right to seek asylum enshrined in the Preamble of the Lebanese Constitution and the international customary principle of non-refoulement which is embodied in Art 3 of the Convention Against Torture ratified by Lebanon.
We call on the Lebanese authorities to:
- Acknowledge the UNHCR guidelines regarding the refugees from Iraq and to establish a mechanism to receive and protect refugees from Iraq fleeing the generalised violence in their country.
- Grant the refugees from Iraq temporary residencies on humanitarian grounds.
- Ensure that arrest of refugees from Iraq is limited to identification of identity and for security reasons or other criminal charges.
We call on IOM to:
- Halt assistance to convoys and adhere to UNHCR guidelines and advisory concerning the non-returnability of refugees from Iraq to Iraq.
Jordan held a Conference on July 26 to look at assistance to countries hosting refugees from Iraq in the region, we call all stakeholders to:
- Remind the Lebanese government of its oligation as a member of the international community to recognize and protect the basic and fundamental human rights of refugees from Iraq during their stay in the country.
- Assist the Lebanese government and national NGOs in order to grant the refugees from Iraq refugees access to basic services such as health and education, and allow self-reliance opportunities.


On 18 December 2006, UNHCR issued an advisory return for Iraqis1 in which it recommended that states and UNHCR should declare Iraqis as refugees on a prima facie basis except for those who were residing in Iraqi Kurdistan and those who fall under the exclusion clauses of the 1951 Convention. UNHCR Advisory was issued following the serious deterioration of the security situation in Iraq that was characterized by the generalized violence, massive targeted violations of human rights, and the lack of government protection. According to the advisory, “Iraqi” refers to both Iraqi nationals as well as former habitual residents of Iraq, in particular Palestinian refugees. The Advisory called the countries in the region hosting Iraqis and which do not have refugee legal framework to allow Iraqis from Southern and Central Iraq to enter and remain, “even if on a temporary basis.’


Lebanese NGOs
Frontiers Ruwad Association
Lebanese Center for Human Rights
Nahwa Al-Muwatiniyya
Arab NGO Network for Development
Union of Democratic Youth

Arab NGO
Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des droits de l’Homme en Tunisie, Tunisia
Fédération des Tunisiens pour une Citoyennete des deux Rives, Tunisia
Association Tunisiennes des Femmes, Tunisia

International NGOs
Médecins du Monde–France (Lebanon)
International Coalition on the Detention of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers
Italian Council for Refugees
Refugees International
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Euromediterranean Human Rights New Work
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Chaldean Federation of America
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
1. UNHCR Return Advisory and Position on International Protection Needs of Iraqis Outside Iraq, UNHCR, 18 December.

Appeal Against the Imminent “ Voluntary Returns” of Iraqi Detainees to Iraq

We, the undersigned, are concerned about the “voluntary return” operations of Iraqi refugees in detention in Lebanon to Iraq. Such returns are contrary to the principle of non-refoulement and to the UN position on non-returnability to Iraq of the Iraqi refugees from Southern and Central Iraq.
The Iraqi Embassy in collaboration with the Internal Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Lebanese authorities are currently preparing the necessary arrangements for the upcoming “voluntary return” of approximately 250 Iraqis from Lebanese detention centers to Iraq.
Refugees and asylum seekers are arrested solely on grounds of illegal entry and/or illegal stay and kept in detention for long periods after the expiry of their judicial sentences. Most Iraqis, if not all, see their return to Iraq as the only way out of prison: faced with indefinite imprisonment with no or little hope to be released by the Lebanese General Security Office – despite of UNHCR’s intervention on behalf of detainees known to them. This explains why some Iraqi detainees sign on their return to Iraq with the hope to leave Iraq again.
It is our opinion that such “voluntary returns” are in fact refoulement of Iraqi refugees.
UNHCR defines “voluntary” as the absence of any physical, psychological, or material pressure and considers that choosing to return when the legal status and rights of refugees are not recognized in the country of asylum is not an act of free will.
As prolonged detention after the expiry of the sentence is considered a physical, psychological and material pressure against refugees and as most refugees lack legal status in Lebanon, the voluntariness to return to Iraq expressed by Iraqis in detention is seriously flawed.
IOM and UNHCR have repeatedly stated that today they do not promote “voluntary return” of Iraqis. Yet, IOM in collaboration with the Iraqi Embassy are organizing what they call “voluntary return” operations on an ad-hoc basis.
UNHCR’s role in these operations is limited to counselling the detainees prior to their return. Yet, it seems that in reality UNHCR is viewed as approving such returns. Upon receiving the list of Iraqi detainees from the Iraqi Embassy, UNHCR conducts a counselling session stressing that it does not support the return to Iraq, that as Iraqis, they are considered as refugee by UNHCR and that they have the right to seek international protection in Lebanon. In the course of counselling, refugees are asked whether or not they want to seek asylum or maintain their refugee status. In case of a refusal, UNHCR makes sure that the person does not wish to seek asylum and intends to return to Iraq. It is our opinion that by participating in the process of these operations, UNHCR is allowing other actors to undermine its protection role.
We are further concerned that IOM and, the Lebanese authorities are putting the lives of Iraqi refugees in danger by returning them to war-torn Iraq without providing any guarantees for their security, any assistance or rehabilitation and without monitoring the situation of returnees inside Iraq.
We call on UNHCR, IOM and the Lebanese authorities to:
- halt the up-coming and all future so called “voluntary return” of Iraqi detainees to Iraq in compliance with the UN Return Advisory on Iraq.
We call on the Lebanese authorities to:
- put an end to the practice of prolonged arbitrary detention of refugees and asylum-seekers
- respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement of refugees and asylum-seekers
- acknowledge the serious deterioration of the security situation in Iraq and grant a temporary residency on humanitarian grounds for Iraqi refugees.

Legal Background

Lebanon is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not have a national legislation to protect refugees. Also, Lebanese authorities do not recognize the refugee certificates issued by UNHCR. Therefore, the majority of refugees in Lebanon lack legal status and are treated as illegal immigrants.
In December 2006, UNHCR issued a Return Advisory on Iraqis in which it stated that “[n]o Iraqi from Southern or Central Iraq should be forcibly returned to Iraq until such time as there is substantial improvement in the security and human rights situation in the country”.
UNHCR Handbook on Voluntary Repatriation considers that “voluntary” refers to the “absence of any physical, psychological, or material pressure” and that [o]one of the most important elements in the verification of voluntariness is the legal status of the refugees in the country of asylum. If refugees are legally recognized as such, their rights are protected and if they are allowed to settle, their choice to repatriate is likely to be truly free and voluntary. If, however, their rights are not recognized, if they are subjected to pressures and restrictions and confined to closed camps, they may choose to return, but this is not an act of free will”.
Article 1(1)(d) of IOM Constitution also stresses on the requirement of voluntariness in order to provide its services for voluntary repatriation.


American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Michigan
Association Justice Et Misericorde)
Dr. Barbara E. Harrell-Bond, OBE
Church World Service, Immigration and Refugee Program
Comite pour le Respect des Libertes et des Droits de l’Homme
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Ecuromediterranean Human Rights Network
Federation des Tunisiens pour une Citoyennete des deux Rives
Federation Internationale des ligues des Droits de l’Homme
French Human Rights League
Frontiers Ruwad Association
International Coalition on the Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants
National Council for liberties in Tunisia
Medecins du Monde – France (Lebanon)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Third CRG Workshop in Kolkata Reveals Interesting Facts and Figures Regarding Development Induced Displacement in West Bengal

CRG has been instrumental in organizing three workshops in Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar and Kolkata, to generate a dialogue among activists, academics and independent researchers on the displacement situation. In Kolkata CRG hosted the Third of the series of workshops. This workshop was inaugurated by Hon’ble Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen, Chairperson, West Bengal State Human Rights Commission on 3 September 2007. On this occasion he released the report prepared by Dr. Walter Fernandes and others on “Development induced Displacement in West Bengal 1947-2000”. In an article by Subash Mohapatra, “ India: Development-induced Displacement on rise” he sums up the report findings and details of the workshop. The link is as follows:

Monday, June 18, 2007

SAFHR's Appeal to the Bhutanese Refugees and the International Community

(In the recent times, Bhutanese refugees have become the object of violence again. While constantly the right to return is being debated amongst the organisations / countries working on refugee rights we are yet to see any concrete action. Bhutanese refugees have been living a life of exile for 17 long years. The Royal Government of Bhutan resorted to nothing but ethnic cleansing in the way it evicted citizens of Nepali origin. In its appeal to the international community SAFHR condemns the violence, and urges the international fraternity to intervene.)

An Appeal to agitating Bhutanese Refugees to shun violence and urging the International community to immediately intervene to secure the Bhutanese Refugees their Rights under the UN Convention Concerning Refugees and the UDHR

South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR) condemns the violence and the attacks on refugees living in the camps in Jhapa, particularly in Beldangi II, by a section of the refugee youth reportedly belonging to the Revolutionary Youth Organisation and the Revolutionary Students Organisation affiliated to Bhutan Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). It seems that the rampaging mob of youth were also encouraged by some 'leaders' of the National Front for Democracy in Bhutan in exile. These persons were opposed to the proposal of settling the Bhutanese refugees in a third country. They want all the Bhutanese to return to Bhutan.

SAFHR also expresses deep regret at the tragic death of two refugee youth in the recent violence in Beldangi camp I and II. We are saddened by the report of the death of another Bhutanese youth in Mechi where they were confronting Indian security forces in their attempt to enter India. We extend our condolences to their families.

SAFHR has been closely associated with the various groups in the seven camps in East Nepal. We believe that every refugee has a right to return to his/her own country. At the same time, we are committed to provide to every refugee the opportunity to freely examine all the three options available to him or her under the UN Convention concerning Refugees and decide about his or her future in an atmosphere of freedom. We have always opposed any attempt to force the refugees to accept a particular option/solution though any kind of force whether reduction of relief supplies, closure of camps and intimidation. We have also opposed the use of the refugee camps for any kind of militant activities by sections of the refugees themselves.

The refugees from Bhutan have been living in exile in Nepal for nearly 17 years. It was not their choice to become refugees. They were forced to becoming refugees when the Royal Government of Bhutan threw them out of the country. Bhutan's eviction of a section of its citizens of Nepalese ethnicity was a blatant act of ethnic cleansing. It is sad that the international community has so far done little to force Bhuatn to take back these hapless people.

While we welcome the kind offer by the government of the United States of America, Canada, Denmark and countries to resettle a large number of the Bhutanese refugees in their countries, we urge all these governments to engage in serious dialogue on this issue and make Bhutan realise that they can not just brutally uproot people from their homes and throw them out into the wilderness.

SAFHR also strongly condemns the violent action taken by the Indian security forces against a group of people whose only wish is to peacefully march back to their own country. In no words has this group ever indicated that they wish to create any problems on Indian soil. Bhutan and India have a special agreement that allows their people to travel back and forth between the two countries without visa requirements, therefore it is totally unacceptable that the Indian government bar these people from entering India. Bhutan is separated from Nepal by a strip of Indian territory. Therefore, there is no other passage overland into Bhutan from Nepal, unless one passes through India.

Clearly, a section of the refugees, however wrong they might have been in the choice of the manner of expressing their frustration and anger, at the total denial of their right to return to their homeland, have most vividly expressed their rejection of the option of settlement in a third country. Also, they were justifiably unhappy at the international community's tacit approval of the exercise of sham democracy initiated in Bhutan by the ruling Wangcuk dynasty and their cohorts. Understandably the holding of the so-called 'mock election exercise' in Bhutan, at this time, added fuel to the fire.

SAFHR appeals to the Government of India to uphold the democratic values it claims to espouse and to stop using force in obstructing the group of refugees from Bhutan from exercising their democratic rights and freedoms. We also urge the international community to respect the sentiment of those refugees who want to return to their homeland, which is just and fair right.

We also call upon the agitating refugee youth and their leaders to immediately desist from use of all forms of violence which they have been directing against a section of their compatriots who wanted to explore the option of settlement in a third country.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Other Side of 1857 Revolt – Journey from United Province to Malegaon and Mauritius


There are two historical explanations regarding 1857 revolt. For some historians, 1857 marked the first war of independence, while for others it is known as the year of Sepoy mutiny. In this small note I am not going to analyse whether it was the first war of freedom struggle or only a Sepoy mutiny. As we commemorate the 150 years of 1857 through various government and media initiatives; it is interesting to see how this mutiny by the Indians and the consequent suppression by the British Raj forced many people to migrate from several areas of the country. Most of the urban centers of India witnessed rural urban migration in various phases. In this context, it is important to recognize that displacement and migration can happen at any historical juncture. In the transnational world of today, we need to understand that often under the garb of voluntary migration; forced migration has occurred in the past too that had gone undocumented. As we celebrate the 150 years of 1857, it is important to take a close look at the mass displacement movement had brought about.

The Times of India has tried to unravel some interesting facts, which paves way for further research. The revolt opened up new destinations for people who were forced to flee. Destinations were as varied as Singapore, Mauritius and Jabalpur. Various powerloom corners of Mumbai (Malegaon and Bhiwandi) and two Muslim quarters Mominpura and Madanpura in Bombay also witnessed mass influx of people from Northern India. The suppression in the wake of the Mutiny or the First War of Independence was responsible for uprooting thousands in various corners of Northern India, the then United Provinces.

Community leaders of Malegaon recall tales that have gone undocumented and need to be told (Hafeez, “1857 Malegaon Story” Times of India, 10 May 2007). Residents of today’s Malegaon are descendants of the migrant populace who were force to flee from Meerut, Awadh and Lucknow. Interestingly as Hafeez points the residents of United Provinces used railway services to flee certain areas. Hafeez refers to Basheer Adeeb who has written a book on the history of Malegaon. Basheer Adeeb’s grandfather and other members used bullock carts and trains as the means of transport to reach Burhanpur (in Madhya Pradesh) and after that they had to walk. While many chose to stay in Buhranpur, Adeeb recalled that many migrants moved to various places like Jabalpur, Nagpur, Kampti, Shahda, Dhule, Malegaon, Yeola, Bhiwandi and Mominpura and Madanpura in Bombay. Most of the people, who were forced to migrate, chose areas that were nearby Agra Highway. Apart from Bombay, the other destinations were Maheshwar, on the banks of the Narmada and a seat of power for the Holkar dynasty, followed by various places in Maharashtra as mentioned above. In fact, the very place Mominpura gets its name from Momin weavers of U.P. (“Malegaon to Mauritius: On the trail of 1857” Times of India, 10 May 2007)

Malegaon is interesting because it did exist pre 1857, though there are no archival records to suggest the influx of people from Northern parts of the country. What is crucial to note here is that the pattern of migration is spread over a huge time. Kinship ties were responsible for spreading news about the economic prospects of Malegaon. Malegaon recently made it to the news because of the blasts around September. This place is home to the descendants of the migrants from various northern states primarily Awadh. Most of them were weavers. After they migrated to Malegaon they continued in the same profession. The dramatic event that changed their lives was the introduction of power looms in 1936. Most of 80% percent of the city’s population is dependent on these power looms.

Apart from the Deccan states, the British plantations in Mauritius witnessed a rise in the number of indentured labourers post revolt. According to newspaper report, a Mauritian family has records that a ship crammed with more than 500 Bhojpuris, embarking from the Kerala coast. The article also refers to Amaresh Misra’s soon-to-be-published book War of Civilisations: India 1857 where he has discussed in detail how the Bhojpuri language has influenced the popular culture of Mauritius. “"The local language in Mauritius, Creole, is a patois of French with notes of Bhojpuri — for example, in the song 'Hamre avion mein chal jo' or the other common usage for 'I love you', 'Je t'aime va', where a 'va' is added in the way that Bhojpuri speakers say riskva or chalva," he says”.

These instances show how migration patterns are interesting and how the push-pull factor of migration analysis needs to move beyond the economic factors. 1857 revolt sparked internal migration and outward migration. This shows that there is much need to document the nuances that underlie the very notion of “forced migration”. At various historical junctures there have been cases of mass displacement. While the modern historiography around partition literature has attempted to capture the experiences of people who were forced to migrate to Pakistan and Bangladesh; revolt of 1857 has not received due attention.

The journey from United Province to Malegaon and Mauritius is significant because most of the migrants to Maleagon belonged to the minority community and were subject to routine violence by the Zamindars. They had no right to name their own children. On the other hand, it will be an interesting subject to explore the reasons that were responsible for the Bhojpuri migrants to migrate to Mauritius which was then a French colony. Who were these migrants? These migrants were from Eastern U.P. and Bihar. They were skilled at growing sugarcane. The British had managed to destroy the rural agrarian enterprises, which was instrumental in creating a huge surplus of labour. Eventually, they were shipped off to Surinam, Mauritius and Caribbean islands. What could be an interesting domain of research is how the popular culture of Mauritius is influenced by the Bhojpuri culture and how this separation has brought about a unique folk tradition called the kaharwa, a folksong sung in the Kahar community that narrates the pain of separation from a wife or beloved as a result of migration; the chamraudha dance of the Chamar caste, the songs of which cover the same theme; the barahmasa narrations, which detail the different emotions that each month of the year brings; and the nautanki popular theatre, performed during festivals and weddings. These folk traditions are known as Bidesia. Bidesia is a Bhojpuri term for those who left for overseas. These living traditions speak about the experience and pain of migration. These living traditions speak about the agony of separation from “home”. The notions of “home”, “nation” and memory are crucial to understand the Mauritian case. The migration to Malegaon is further intriguing. Even though the migration is limited within the boundaries of nation, people were forced to flee from their “homes”. In the transnational context, when people are constantly on the move and boundaries have blurred can we erase the pain of displacement the weavers of various places in UP might faced some 150 years back?

         ------------Ishita Dey

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bhutanese Refugees: Pawn in the hands of governments and politicians?

[Below we present a note sent by Tapan Bose (South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Kathmandu) on how the Nepali speaking South Bhutanese refugees are once again in the eye of a controversy. This time it is about the offer of the US government to resettle about 60,000 refugees in the United States. A section of the Nepalese and international media as well as some NGOs are projecting the US offer as an attempt to weaken the unity and the resolve of the Bhutanese refugees to 'return to their homeland'. It seems that all the well-wishers of the Bhutanese refugees are convinced that 'repatriation to Bhutan' is the best and the ideal solution. – Ed.]

Under the UN Convention on Refugees, there are three options for durable solution:
1.Return to the country of origin.
2.Rehabilitation in the host country.
3. Resettlement in a third country.
The UDHR also guarantees the right of every person to seek asylum. Though the UN convention on refugees does not indicate that any of the three is the most preferred, 'return' has somehow emerged as the most preferred solution.
It is nice to think 'return' as the ideal solution, which carries the image of happiness, which is usually associated with the image of welcome. It is definitely great to hope that when every one returns to their home the neighbours would come over and hug the returning families and all of them would settle down happily and life would restart from where it was 'stopped' at the moment of departure. But this as we all know never happens in reality. Experience shows that 'return' is one of the most difficult solutions. The reasons, which had forced the refuges to leave their home and hearth often, remain powerfully alive. The government, political groups and sections of the neighbours perpetrated a violence that the refugees cannot forget. The very first requirement of a 'returnee' is a protection against those forces. And this cannot happen unless the government of the state is committed to provide that security and the assistance to the returnees, which are essential for successful resettlement in their home country. The South Asian experiences of return, be it the case of Rohingyas to Myanmar from Bangladesh, Chakmas to Bangladesh from India and Sri Lankan Tamils from India to Sri Lanka have been extremely painful for all the returnee communities.
Under these circumstances the hope of 'return' for the Bhutanese refugees defies reality. Since the arrival of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal in 1990-91, Nepal government has made every effort to secure their 'right to return'. During the 17 rounds of the so-called bilateral dialogue with the government of Bhutan, Nepal government gave into almost all the demands of Bhutan including to the obnoxious policy of 'categorisation and verification of the refugees by a joint team of Nepal and Bhutan'. However, all the efforts of Nepal government achieved nothing. The refugees are still stuck in the seven camps in eastern Nepal.
The first country of asylum for the Bhutanese refugees was and is India. After being uprooted from their homes and pushed inside Indian territory, the refugees found they were unwanted there. Indian authorities showed no sympathy. They did not recognize their status as citizens of Bhutan. On the Bhutanese refugee issue, Indian government has refused to seriously dialogue with Bhutan government and has prevented Nepal from taking the issue to the UN. Senior Indian bureaucrats and political leaders prefer following a policy of non- interference in the internal affairs of Bhutan, its trusted ally and dependable supplier of energy resources. Political leaders from the Congress, CPI (M) and AGP in West Bengal and Assam felt that the government should stay out of the question of the claims of Nepalese settlers in south Bhutan to Bhutanese citizenship rights, as it might boomerang on India. Already India was confronted with the unregulated movement of masses of Nepalese people from the eastern and western hill regions of Nepal. In other words, the Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese ethnicity were seen as Nepal's problem and therefore were pushed into Nepal.
During a discussion with Mr Shyam Saran, the then Indian Foreign Secretary, when I asked why India had pressurized Nepal to accept the blatantly unfair Bhutanese demand for 'categorisation and verification' of the refugees as a precondition for Bhutan's recognition of these people as its citizens, he explained, it was the only terms on which Bhutanese government was agreeable. It would appear that India was trying to get Bhutan to take back a few, thus saving Nepal's face, and then the rest could be resettled in India and Nepal. Apparently Indian government had assured Nepal that it would share a part of the burden of re-settling the remaining Bhutanese refugees. According to Mr. Saran, Bhutan's offer to take back a small number of refugees from Khudnabari camp after the completion of the first round 'categorisation and verification' was acceptable to the government of Nepal and the Bhutanese refugees. The return of people identified as category 1 and category 2, was expected to have paved the way for resolving the refugee crisis. Mr. Saran blamed the UNHCR and human rights NGO for destroying that opportunity by campaigning against Bhutan's offer, motivating the refugees to reject it.
It should be added, that the Bhutanese offer for persons in category 1 (citizens wrongly evicted) was that they could return but would receive no support for their rehabilitation nor would they be any restitution of their property. For people in category 2 (who left voluntarily) on return, they would have to live in designated camps. Only one member of the family would get employment. After eight years they could regain full citizenship, if they passed an examination to prove their loyalty to the nation and the king of Bhutan.
Government of Nepal is not willing to resettle the Bhutanese refugees in their country. Mr. K. P. Oli, the Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal had told me that there is no question of Nepal granting citizenship to the Bhutanese refugees. In my discussions with successive Nepalese Foreign and Home Ministers as well as leaders of Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (UML), I was firmly told – the Government of Nepal was not ready to explore the 'third country resettlement option'. Evidently, 'return to Bhutan' was an article of faith of Nepalese foreign policy and no politician was willing to tinker with it. I also felt that behind this inflexible policy stance was an effort to cover the humiliation at the failure to get Bhutan to take back the people of Nepalese ethnicity. The need to save 'face' is epitomized in the ludicrous response of Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to the US offer for resettlement of Bhutanese refugees - all the Bhutanese refugees should return to Bhutan even for a day before they go to another country for rehabilitation. Mr Oli had told me that 'return of the refugees' was a part of the larger vision of a 'democratic Bhutan'.
Now, Bhutanese politicians in exile, young revolutionaries and Maoist party cadres are campaigning against the offer for resettlement of 60,000 essentially because it has come from the Government of the USA. Some of the older Bhutanese NGOs which have been propagating 'return' as the only demand with the support of the 'revolutionary' groups are intimidation those refugees who would like to explore the possibilities of 'resettlement in a third country'. The claim of the so-called leaders of the refugee community that all the Bhutanese refugees want to return at any cost is a lie. The lie is proved by the fact that all the refugees in category I and II had refused to o back to Bhutan on the terms put forward by the Bhutanese government. The lie is further exposed by the fact thousands of refugees have sent appeals to the UNHCR requesting their resettlement in a third country. In all the training workshops that SAFHR organised on the rights of refugees in the camps during the past four years, overwhelming majority of the participants were keen to learn about the process of resettlement in a third country.
The Bhutanese refugees live in the seven camps without any security. Nepal government has withdrawn the police posts from the camps long ago. They have often faced violence from the local communities. A few camp inmates were killed in clashes with local Nepalese on issues of theft of firewood from local forests. Young refugee women have been lured into sex work. There are reported cases of rape of refugee women, which have remained unsolved...
It seems, once again the refugees would have to give up this opportunity to rebuild their lives in a new country to fulfill the dreams of the self centred 'elite' political leaders. Not one of the so-called Bhutanese politicians lives inside the camps. All of them have their homes outside the camps. Some also own property in Nepal. Their children study in expensive schools in Nepal and abroad. Obviously the leaders cannot afford their captive masses to desert them.
We have been failing the Bhutanese refugees all these years. Let us not let this opportunity pass them by. Let us not stand aside and let these so-called political parties in exile decide the collective fate of all the refugees. It is important for the government of Nepal, the UNHCR and the NGOs to intervene and help those who want to accept the offer of resettlement in the USA. Let some escape the camps where they have been prisoners for the last seventeen years.

Friday, May 18, 2007

New IDMC report on forced migration and displacement in Myanmar attempts to address current gaps

In May 2007 the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) released a new report on forced migration and displacement in Myanmar with special focus on the government-controlled areas of the country. The report, by Andrew Bosson, is meant as a preliminary exploration of the subject in terms of reliance on unsystematic and indirect sources due to challenging circumstances of doing research in and on Myanmar.
The report is organized in two sections. The first section addresses the status of displaced people in Myanmar in terms of international standards especially in the light of the Guiding Principles of Internal Displacement. The report does not estimate actual numbers or patterns of movement of such migrants, though expert individuals and organisations suggested that these “livelihood migrants” constitute majority of migrants in Burma. This report limits itself to describing the coercive measures practiced countrywide and discussing the status of those who have been subject to such measures.
The second section is organised by region and it looks at the parts of Myanmar not covered by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium as well as the conflict and post-conflict areas of Eastern Burma. The report concentrates on the government-controlled parts of Burma with little explicit military conflict. A substantial part of the report addresses direct relocation by government agents.
Forced Migration/Internal Displacement in Burma, with an Emphasis on Government-Controlled Areas
Link to full report
Link to International Displacement Monitoring Centre, Geneva

Friday, May 11, 2007

Role of clinical legal education in increasing access to justice

Mostafa Mahmud Naser, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Chittagong and a former participant in the Winter Course on Forced Migration 2006

[An earlier version was published in The Daily Star on 14 April 2007]

Bangladesh has hundreds of thousands of people internally displaced due to civil war and religious persecution. The scale and nature of internal displacement in Bangladesh is personified by the notorious conflict-induced displacement in the Chittagong Hill Tract in the southeast of the country. Both the internally displaced Bangladeshis and the returning refugees from the neighbouring countries face the issue of their access to justice in their homeland. Access to justice is crucial for the rehabilitation of these marginalized groups as they face contentious issues of land ownership and property rights.
In our adversarial legal system, poverty, inordinate delay, high cost of litigation, lack of legal aid mechanism and unavailability of alternative informal justice delivery system are considered the road blocks in the way of access to justice. In most of the cases, access to justice is only available to the resourceful person and powerful elite since in order to have access to justice one must have the means, which includes money. The poverty-ridden people in our country are, normally, not aware of the rights and the relief(s) they are entitled to. This is primarily due to lack of education. Even if they are made aware of their rights and the relief(s), because of financial constraints they cannot enter even the gate of justice. In this context, law and the attitude and activities of the personnel involved with the operation and enforcement of law can be used to help the poor and the disadvantaged to exercise greater control over their lives.
The institutions of legal education i.e. law faculties and law departments in the universities, both public and private, and the law colleges of Bangladesh can play a vital role in this regard. These institutions can distinguish themselves by concentrating their resources and efforts in encouraging and enhancing access to justice.
Clinical legal education is basically practical legal training through moot-court, mock-trial, participation of the students in ADR and in public legal education i.e. mass legal awareness programmes, chamber practice with the lawyers, counseling, participating in the conduct of life cases, short of appearing in the courts. Clinical legal education is learning through doing, or by the experience of acting as a lawyer. Hence, this is experiential learning. Clinical legal education merits separate treatment, for it is not merely a methodology of teaching or learning, it is also providing service to the people and, hence, more practical and noble. When young students at the formative stage of their career are exposed to community legal services, they get sensitised to the problems and needs especially of the marginalised sections of the people, and feel motivated to continue to work for them when they enter professional life.
Thus, clinical legal education programme encourages law schools to expand their educational objectives to more completely serve the needs of their students and to provide instruction about the knowledge, skills, and values that will enable their students to become competent legal problem solvers. Successful implementation of clinical legal education programmes in the law faculties and law schools in a country like Bangladesh will not only improve the quality of its legal education, but it can go a long way in meeting the demands of social justice, legal needs of the poor and improving human rights conditions.
Enhancing access to justice
Objectives of clinical legal education can be achieved under the supervision of law faculties or law schools by undertaking massive works in the following areas:
Integration of social values through curriculum: Lack of social relevancy and humanistic approach in the curriculum alienates and suppress various values, ethics, gender perspectives and views of minority etc. Therefore, by way of adding courses to the curriculum that address the issues of gender, cultural migration, minority and indigenous peoples or allowing students to work with people of other cultures, we can equip law students to revisit their responsibilities to the marginalised section of the society. The law curriculum should be introduced in integration with other disciplines. It is time to appreciate that the subject matter of economics, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, literature and psychology are essential to the education of the future law graduates. As the minimum, the budding lawyers must be taught in the economics of law, lawsuits and lawyering.
Members of the legal profession need to play the role of educator, planner, and counselor. Therefore, lawyers must be trained in skills that provide for a broader understanding of various facets of legal problems. Fundamental lawyering skills are important to provide social justice. However, any set of skills confined only to traditional methods of problem solving would be manifestly insufficient. Students would be required to undergo the entire process of lawyering either by exposure to actual cases or in dramatic simulations. In both instances, they are to act as lawyers and learn the details of lawyering from the experience of being a lawyer, real or simulating. While the students work under the supervision of a practicing lawyer or a clinical teacher, they are expected to face situations, analyse facts and take decisions independently.
In externships programmes, post-graduate students are required to work with leading NGOs, engaged in para-legal activities in different parts of Bangladesh. This programme proved extremely useful for the students as it provides necessary motivation and sensitises and exposes them to the society and masses at large. Placement with legal services groups will offer Bangladeshi law students valuable opportunities to broaden their perspectives, integrate such services into their careers, and join the community of legal activists.
Law clinics remained focused on poverty law issues and formulated increasingly sophisticated educational regimes to accompany live client representation. Balancing the twin missions of service and education, the clinical movement became an institutionalised component of legal education. Today, there is little dispute about the merits of clinical legal education. By addressing human rights and social justice concerns, law clinics and NGOs may help upgrade the quality of the legal profession in general. Dismay at the profession's low ethical and professional standards drove many top law graduates into teaching or business in the past. The clinics and expanding NGO opportunities improved legal training and encouraged high-calibre graduates to practice law.
Law schools can also establish legal aid cells where students and teachers can guide people in identifying their problems and make them aware of the remedies available to them. Students in these cells can also provide paralegal services such as drafting affidavits, assisting in registration of marriages, births and deaths, electoral rolls, and filling out various forms. This type of work gives students ample opportunity to learn key interviewing, counseling, and drafting skills. Another approach is for law schools to adopt a village and encourage students to conduct a survey to identify the problems that the people in that particular village face. After identifying the problems, students can approach the authorities concerned and arrange a public forum. Often, local authorities are not responsive to local citizens' concerns, especially those from disadvantaged communities. The idea here is to inform villagers about the programme and to encourage them to participate in the forum so that they can meet the officers concerned on that particular day and can settle their grievances in public. Students can be instrumental in the smooth functioning of the entire programme, and they can follow up on particular matters with the officers concerned.
Justice education requires us to place an even greater emphasis on negotiation, dispute resolution and collaborative working relationships. Our students must be taught how to resolve problems before they deteriorate into potential lawsuits. Our young lawyers need to be educated to recognise that even if the outcome of litigation is relatively certain, there is not always just one right answer to a problem. A money judgement may not be an effective solution for all parties, and so lawyers should work to provide for a lasting solution, one that is worked out through negotiation or appropriate dispute resolution. They need to learn that it is not enough to root out the facts of the problem: they must understand the context in which the problem arose. 'A good lawyer can assist clients in articulating their problems, finding their interests, ordering their objectives, and generating, assuring, and implementing alternative solutions.'
Public legal education can be effected through lectures, discussions, publications and distribution of simplified and adopted versions of constitution and international human rights instruments etc. or adopting any other informal methods like production of street plays that focus on legal issues. As a part of the public legal education programmes the aforesaid lectures, seminars and discussions can be organised in villages, factories, professional unions, educational institutions and amongst particular disadvantaged groups like slum dwellers, garments workers or aborigines. Public legal education should also motivate the people to participate constructively in the creation of law, which has a pervasive influence on our society.
The whole idea of clinical legal education can go in vain if ethical side of legal profession is overlooked. Objective of clinical legal education is not merely to help students master the skills of lawyering and make them technically sound. In representing a client's case in the court, student lawyer must not resort to any means, which is morally condemnable, must avoid resorting to false witnesses and distortion of facts. While client's interest must guide his actions and efforts, ethical and moral values must also be upheld, for in that lies greater good of the society. In fact, in all the programmes that are linked with clinical legal education emphasis is always on the aspects of justice, protection of rights and progressive development of the society. While execution of these programmes requires moral and ethical motivation, successful implementation of the programmes will itself instill further ethical and moral values in the students.
Our legal education has so far been concentrating on the lawyering process and skills learning. To make legal education truly meaningful in the context of our social realities effort must be made without further delay to accommodate the remaining objectives in the clinical curriculum. This, very likely, will necessitate establishment of 'out-reach programmes' where students will have the opportunity to interact with 'real problems', whose resolutions they are expected to come up with. This will allow the students to reflect on whether justice can always be done by litigation.
The Constitution of Bangladesh in its preamble and Fundamental Principles of State Policy speaks about social justice, which is the key pillar of the Constitution. According to Article 15 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh it shall be a fundamental responsibility of the state to attain, through economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces of the people, with a view to securing to its citizens the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing shelter, education and medical care. But due to vicious circle of poverty, even after thirty-five years of independence these goals are yet to be achieved. High ideals of our liberation struggle as reflected in the constitution will continue to remain mere promises if we fail to ensure that every individual citizen has access to justice and access to the law- just law justly and equitably administered.
In the background of constitutional commitment and the societal needs, legal education must embrace a broad and comprehensive concept.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Updated profile of internal displacement in India

Updated profile of internal displacement in India: A Report by IDMC (
India: large numbers of IDPs are unassisted and in need of protection

Civilians have fled fighting and have sometimes been directly targeted by militant groups in Kashmir, the North-East and in several states of eastern and central India. Insurgency and retaliatory operations by security forces are the major immediate cause of conflict-related displacement in India. A majority of the internally displaced people (IDPs) have not been able to return for several years, due to either protracted conflicts or unresolved disputes over land and property. One example is India’s largest group of internally displaced, the Kashmiri Pandits who have been fleeing the Kashmir Valley since 1989 due to persecution, killings and massacres. Thousands more have languished in relief camps in Assam since the early 1990s, while more than 5,000 families remain displaced after the communal violence that erupted in Gujarat in 2002. (...)

For Full Overview please click the following: (html/pdf)
Full Internal Displacement Profile

Friday, March 02, 2007

A brief report of the incident that took place in Sanischare Camp in Nepal from 22 February 2007


The question that we shall like the readers to ask and reflect after they have read this piece: Who are responsible for this spread of hatred? Can the situation persist like this? Will the Committee Report’s findings help in quelling the hatred brewing amongst the locals for the refugees? There is perhaps a need for building trust between the two communities. Exactly how shall that be done is again open to debate.

It has been reported that there was a hot discussion going on between two groups of the forest user committee near the northern side of the camp. One local woman came there with a basket load of firewood, which was immediately seized by the committee members and taken away amidst severe protest and use of abusive language by the woman. That time Thakur Sing Thapa (Magar) a Bhutanese refugee came to witness the scene who was caught hold by the committee and assaulted. He was taken towards the forest and on the mound a fire was lit and he was repeatedly thrust and brought out of the fire. This was seen by a group of refugee youths and they demanded that he be released. But they came up against them and a quarrel ensued which broke to a fighting. More people came in bicycles with sharp weapons and fighting continued. Meanwhile a police force was summoned and they started throwing tear gas at the refugees and most of them were only silently looking at the incident. Then while most of the people were nauseated, some local youths of Pathri penetrated into the crowd right inside the camp, cut the thigh of Gopal Khadka and then sliced his throat with a sharp weapon. He died on the spot. The locals used spear and sharp weapons and wounded many of the camp people who were unarmed and many mostly onlookers. The names of some of the wounded are as follows:
1. Name: Guna Raj Karki. 20-M
Add: Beldangi-2, D3/24
Presently studying at NHA School
Case: Deep cut with open injury (Lt) elbow joint.
2. Name: San Man Bhattarai. 17-M
Add: Sanischare camp, H4/08
Case: Deep cut injury (Rt.forearm)
3. Name: Aita Singh Magar. 15-M
Add: Sanischare camp, G6/45
Case: Deep cut injury and rib injury backside (Lt)
4. Name: Jit Bdr. Chauhan. 16-M
Add: Sanischare camp, G4/43
Case: Deep stab wound with rib injury back side (Rt) side
5. Name: Harka Bdr. Magar. 35-M
Add: Sanischare camp, G1/34
Case: Multiple Head injury with severe bleeding
6. Name: Thakur Singh Magar. 26-M
Add: Sanischare camp, J3/15
Case: Multiple Head injury with Haematoma
The above mentioned cases are referred immediately to AMDA Hospital, Damak on date 22/2/07
Incident of the second day i.e. on 23rd of February 2007 compiled below.
On 23rd morning, a group of locals from Jirikhimti side entered the camp with sharp weapons and torches to kindle the huts of the refugees in Sector J and K from road side and the refugee youths defended and did not allow them to enter the camp. Pelting of stones continued throughout the day. The police reached the scene towards the late afternoon and there was a confrontation with the locals of the Pathari bazaar. One youth from that side caught hold of a gun of a constable and fired at the refugees by which two old refugees were wounded. After that, the locals of Pathari set fire to the two huts of sector K2. Hut no 19 and 21 which were completely burnt and hut nos 20, 34 and 04 were partially burnt and damaged. Since then curfew was imposed in the camp area.
A team of five people including camp secretary went to Belbari at 5.30 p.m. for a discussion and solution of the problem. The discussion had to be fixed for the next day at 11.00 a.m. as the Sanischare local representatives were not present. The next day the meeting started at 3.00 p.m. and the CDO, deputy CDO, SP of Morang, and UNHCR Security Officer were present. The presence of National political party leaders and the camp secretaries of other six camps were denied by t he local agitators. The following points were put forward by the members present:
Shifting of the camp to another place.
Verification of the loss and compensation.
Verification of the death, compensation and action on the culprit.
Treatment of the injured and compensation for the disable.
The CDO proposed to make a committee comprising of nine representatives to start the work of fact-finding and the committee should submit the report within 15 days. He also said that the Govt. would provide necessary treatment of the wounded in Koshi Hospital and Dharan BPKHS. For the first point he said that he would forward the proposal to the Government. The representatives for the investigating committee are as follows:
Two representatives from the camp.
Two representatives from Pathari bazaar.
Two representatives from Sanischare Forest user group.
One representative from the Govt.
One representative from the Human Rights.
One representative from the UNHCR.
The names of the members of the committee were to be given to the CDO the next day but the committee could not be formed as fresh agitation against the local administration started next day morning from Pathari Bazaar. Since then the situation with regards to camp operation is getting more difficult.
The people who were shot during the police intervention are:
1. Name: Dilli ram Dungana 68-M
Add: Sanischare Camp B2/25
Case: injury at right buttock Pearsed bullet.
He is transferred to Ghopa Hospital at Dharan.
2. Name: Karna Bahadur Poudyel 48-M
Add: Sanischare camp, K-1 # 50
Case: Pierced bullet injury (Lt.) arm
(These above two cases were directly referred to Koshi Zonal Hospital at Biratnagar on February 23, '07 with the help of the security force).
3. Name: Mr. Jeeten Budathoki 20-M
Add: Sanischare Camp: H-1 # 15
Case: Conjunctival Haemorrhage (lt. Eye) with cellulites.
This was referred to AMDA hospital in Damak.
4. Name: Gopal Khadka 23/M
Add: Sanischare camp, F1/01
Case: Deep cut injury Nape/ Rt. thigh with severe internal bleeding (brought dead at 9.40 p.m.)
First aid management were provided to the following people in the camp:
1) Name: Lachu man Subedi 18/M
Add: Sanischare camp, J3/35
Case: Skull injury.
2) Name: Nikhita Kafley 3/F
Add: Sanischare camp, D2/46
Case: tear gas poisoning
3) Name: Mousam Rai. 5 ½/ M
Add: Sanischare camp, D2/44
Case: tear gas poisoning
4) Name: Sunil Rai 3/M
Add: Sanischare camp, D1/35
Case: tear gas poisoning
The ambulance movement to the camp was there in the early hours of 23rd Feb. But the movement to the camps was not allowed by the locals in the afternoon and on subsequent days. A delivery case was managed to be brought to the hospital only after three days. The dead body of Gopal Khadka who was killed on 22nd evening could not be removed from the morgue in Mangalbare till 25th evening as the near and dear ones could not be brought out of the camp because the locals had a clash with the police. Several requests to UNHCR and Govt. of Nepal and particularly police authority to provide conveyance for the family of the deceased was futile. The UNHCR and the agency concerned were ready to support and were constantly monitoring the situation. The leaders took a risk to send an ambulance via the village taking rough road to the camp and collected his relatives at about 5.30 p.m. on 25th of Feb. the cremation was carried out in Mai river and it took till 11.30 p.m. The relatives were escorted to the camp late in the night with the help of two ambulances taking the same route from the remote village. The police at Urlabari and Damak were informed about this but not asked to escort owing to the risk as the locals had a clash with them at Pathari.
For four days the ambulance could not go and 29 patients discharged in Biratnagar are stranded in Biratnagar without needful management. When these patients had conversation with the AMDA staff they were told that AMDA would not be able to send a vehicle but if the camp secretaries take the risk to take them they could do that. The patients requested the camp secretaries by telephone to help them to come to the camp. But the camp secretaries being refugees can only request the agencies concerned and the Govt. to provide necessary assistance which could not materialize. It is learned that the UNHCR is constantly requesting the govt. of Nepal to calm down the situation, so that the operation exercise is not hampered in camps.
There has been information from the camp since there is no vehicle movement to the camp there is no diesel to supply drinking water to the camp population. Therefore, UNHCR taking all support of the Government should take immediate action to solve this problem.
Please note that this information is received through the Camp Secretary and the Deputy Secretary of the Camp Management Committee, Sanischare camp. The report is checked and confirmed with BRDSCC members actively involved in the monitoring of the situation. The incident is somehow related to the inadequate assistances for the refugees like briquette in particular.
Finally the BRDSCC and the camp secretaries thank all the concerned for the initiative taken so far towards resolving the issue to this extent and further request to take an urgent action to provide security and protection to the refugees in present situation.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Census, Citizenship and Statelessness in Bhutan

Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HUROB)

After the Nation wide census enumeration, which supposed to be the first of its kind in Bhutan funded by International agencies in May 2005 to determine the exact population, which hitherto remained guarded figure of the country, now another census in the southern districts is going on. The census this time is for issuing new citizenship card with more security measures making difficult for any duplication and invalidating the oldone. However, there are other ostensible motives behind the new citizenshipcard especially for the southern Bhutanese. There are reports that the new citizenship cards are not issued to the people of Category F5-F7 (F5-Bhutanese woman with non-Bhutanese husband, F6- Adoption and F 7-Non-Bhutanese). Moreover, the centre of census work is located at convenience of the department officials at the district head quarters and not in a place convenient to the public. Therefore, besides depriving ofcitizenship cards, people are being harassed, as many families in hordes have to walk two to three days with all necessary provisions to the headquarters. The whole family members have to stay and wait for turns several days and at the end some get it and others do not. There is strict scrutiny and if it is found that someone's relatives are livingin the refugee camps in Nepal or any adverse record of some family members orrelatives taking part in peaceful demonstration in 1990, they are not issued thecard. In addition, any mistakes in name and spellings that even would have been the mistakes of the government is denied correction and kept pending thus depriving citizenship card. Of course, unlike in the past census in 1989, no one is asked to leave the country immediately but definitely creating many stateless people and detection of them while on physical verification later will be evicted. According to our estimation suchpeople will constitue about 50000 that concurs with figure of non-Bhutanesedeclared by the government after the nation wide census and perhaps also is a pre-empted figure of southern Bhutanese to be evicted as the Bhutan government has plan just to keep about 28% of the total population. Other implication of the citizenship cards is that many of the southern Bhutanese will not get a chance to exercise their franchise in the coming first ever-democratic election in 2008. Not only that they will be further deprived of government opportunities as they already are, as they cannot produce No Objection Certificate (NOC), which is mandatory, and without citizenship card and adverse record they will not get it. The citizenship card is required even for admission of children in school. After the completion of census exercise and issuing of the cards, it is most thatevery one has to show the card while leaving the country and coming in addition to produce in the police and immigration check post within the country. This rule no doubt is to check the infiltration of outsiders but at the same time making freedom of movement difficult to Bhutanese who have no citizenship card. One should think what happens to their future generations. Bhutan is always on the prowl of reducing the southern hutanese though living in Bhutan for generations and contributing equally with other northern Bhutanese in nation building besides taking the responsibility of protecting the southern border as entrusted by the national assembly of 1958. The population of Bhutanwhile joining the UN in 1971 was projected as 1.4 million and that figure remained officially till the southern Bhutanese problem started in 1990. In early 1990's the figure suddenly came down to 600000. Now after the 2005 nation wide census the population is about 553000. Where the rest of the people in 35 years of time had vanished? Still there is an effort to reduce the figures. UNHCR and other agencies should be ready to receive these refugees in the future.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reintegration of IDPs, Transitional Justice and Gender Issues in the Post-Conflict Situation

Shiva Dhungana

A talk programme was hosted by Friends for Peace (FFP), a research and resource centre working towards facilitating research and dialogue in the filed of conflict transformation and peace building in Nepal, on 23 January 2007 in Kathmandu. The talk programme was entitled Reintegration of IDPs, Transitional Justice and Gender Issues in the Post-Conflict Situation. The main speakers of the programme were Prof Ranabir Samaddar, Director of Calcutta Research Group (CRG), Dr Paula Banarjee and Dr Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, members of Calcutta Research Group. The programme was chaired by Mr Laxman Prasad Aryal, FFP Chairperson and Coordinator of Interim Constitution Drafting Committee and Former Justice of Supreme Court and moderated by Mr D B Gurung, Executive Director of FFP. The programme was attended by around 40 people representing various sections of civil society, academics, NGO and INGO representatives, human rights activists and researchers.
Prof Samaddar introduced the Calcutta Research Group and its activities. He spoke on the issue of reintegration of IDPs with special reference to the recently concluded research project “Voices of IDPs in South Asia”. He mentioned that the IDPs form the invisible populations of South Asia as they are not visible in the eyes of policy makers. He also highlighted the issues and challenges of IDP reintegration in a society where the society itself is not integrated. He also emphasized that the rights of IDPs in the transitional phase should be ensured otherwise the conflict can resurface again as happened in Sri Lanka. He suggested that a durable peace could be attained through intensive discussion among many layers of society not just by top leaders.
Similarly, Dr Basu Ray Chaudhury spoke on the various aspects of transitional justice and its relevance in a conflict-ridden society like Nepal. He also highlighted the importance of reintegration and reconciliation in post conflict situation, where bitterness between the victims and their perpetrators in the conflict days could increase in the transition period. He suggested that the return of peace with justice to the people is a necessity for durable peace. He also said that the narrowing of differences through dialogue could make transitional justice effective
Dr Paula Banerjee spoke of the plight of women, children and other marginalized population of the society. She said that women were specially targeted by the warring parties and they were always at the front to face the consequences of the conflict. She claimed that most of the burdens were heaped on women's shoulders during the conflict. She emphasized that women's voices should be heard while transforming conflict into durable peace in most conflict situations.
FFP chairperson Mr Laxman P Aryal said that the reintegration of IDPs is important in Nepal at this juncture of political development and the proposed Truth Commission will address these problems soon.
The presentations were followed by an intensive discussion focusing on IDPs, Bhutanese refugees and various issues related to transitional justice and gender issues with special reference to the conflict in Nepal.

Trafficking of girls in Nepal

Nepal and Bangladesh are the main source countries in south Asia for trafficked children. (Masako Iijima, "S. Asia urged to unite against child prostitution," Reuters, 19 June 1998)
The trafficking of girls from Nepal into India for the purpose of prostitution is probably the busiest 'slave traffic' of its kind anywhere in the world. (Tim McGirk, "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods," Nepal/India: News, 27 January 1997)
In Nepal, trafficking has become a highly profitable business, with high profile political connections. Nepali, Bangaldeshi and Pakistani women are trafficked to India, and through India they are trafficked to Eastern Europe and Saudi Arabia. (Interview with Meena Oudel, Programme Coordinator of Oxfam Nepal, 18 March 1998)
More than 9,000 girls are trafficked each year from Nepal and Bangladesh into bondage in India and Pakistan, often with the acquiescence or cooperation of state officials. (, 22 April 1998)
Every year around 10,000 Nepalese girls, most between the age of nine and 16, are sold to brothels in India. (Tim McGirk, "Nepal's Lost Daughters, India's soiled goods," Nepal/India:News, 27 January 1997)
7,000 Nepalese women and girls are trafficked for prostitution to the Asia Pacific area. (Statement of the CATW - Asia Pacific and Philippine Women's Groups, 4th International Congress on AIDS in the Asia Pacific, 29 October 1997)
5,000 Nepalese women are trafficked into India yearly. There are now 100,000 Nepalese women in India in prostitution. (CATW - Asia Pacific, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific)
More than 200,000 Nepalese girls are involved in the Indian sex trade. (Tim McGirk "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods," Nepal/India News, 27 January 1997)
Nepalese women who are trafficked and prostituted in debt bondage in India's sex industry are forced to work longer hours and have more clients than local women. (CATW - Asia Pacific, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific)
Hong Kong is the second biggest market for trafficked Nepalese women. (CATW - Asia Pacific, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific)
Methods and Techniques of Traffickers
In Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka child marriage is accepted, and considered the best method to procure girls for prostitution. (Indrani Sinha, SANLAAP India, "Paper on Globalization & Human Rights")
Parents sell their daughters and husbands get rid of their young unwanted wives for US$200 to $600. Depending on her beauty, a girl can fetch anywhere from less than a water buffalo, to slightly more than a video recorder. Organizers in rural areas, brokers and even family members sell girls. Husbands sometimes sell their wives to brothels. (Tim McGirk, "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods,"Nepal/India News, 27 January 1997)
In Nepal, there is a system, called "deukis," where by rich childless families buy girls from poor rural families and offer them to the temples as though they were their own. These girls are forced into prostitution. In 1992, 17,000 girls were given as deukis. (Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Report on Violence Against Women, Gustavo Capdevila, IPS, 2 April 1997)
Every year between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked into the red light districts in Indian cities. Many of the girls are barely 9 or 10 years old. 200,000 to over 250,000 Nepalese women and girls are already in Indian brothels. The girls are sold by poor parents, tricked into fraudulent marriages, or promised employment in towns only to find themselves in Hindustan's brothels. They're locked up for days, starved, beaten, and burned with cigarettes until they learn how to service up to 25 clients a day. Some girls go through 'training' before being initiated into prostitution, which can include constant exposure to pornographic films, tutorials in how to 'please' customers, repeated rapes. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
Trafficking in women and girls is easy along the 1,740 mile-long open border between India and Nepal. Trafficking in Nepalese women and girls is less risky than smuggling narcotics and electronic equipment into India. Traffickers ferry large groups of girls at a time without the hassle of paperwork or threats of police checks. The procurer-pimp-police network makes the process even smoother. Bought for as little as Rs (Nepalese) 1,000, girls have been known to fetch up to Rs 30,000 in later transactions. Police are paid by brothel owners to ignore the situation. Girls may not leave the brothels until they have repaid their debt, at which time they are sick, with HIV and/or tuberculosis, and often have children of their own. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
The areas used by traffickers to procure women and girls are the isolated districts of Sindhupalchow, Makwanpur, Dhading and Khavre, Nepal where the population is largely illiterate. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
Health and Well-Being
Nepalese girls, trafficked and sold into prostitution in India, are abandoned when they become infected with HIV. (Robert Hardman, "Prince brings hope to Nepal’s rescued sex slaves," London Telegraph, 9 February 1998)
Of the 218 Nepalese girls rescued in February 1996 from a Bombay police raid, 60-70% of them were HIV positive. (Tim McGirk "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods,"Nepal/India News, 27 January 1997)
NGO Action
The exploitation of Nepalese women and girls may never end. "[F]or some there is too much easy money in it, for others there's nothing to be gained by lobbying for its abolition. But surely, for now, it can be monitored. Its magnitude can be lessened," says Durga Ghimire, chairperson of a 98-NGO-strong pressure group National Network Groups Against Trafficking. She feels that the alarmingly low rates of female literacy, coupled with the traditionally low status of the girl-child in Nepal have to be addressed to tackle the problem. Gauri Pradhan of Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN) emphasizes the need for collaboration by the two governments on this issue. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
There are several shelters run by various Katmandu-based NGOs working against trafficking and towards rehabilitation of girls who manage to escape or are rescued from Indian brothels. This is not easy work. Relatives of the rescued girls generally don't want them back and Nepal's government is worried about the spread of HIV, as many of the trafficked girls have contracted HIV while enslaved in India. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
"The Selling of Innocents" is an Emmy-award winning documentary that tells the stories of trafficked Nepalese children and the filmmaker, Ruchira Gupta, says elimination of sexual exploitation is perhaps the only way to end this human rights violation. "It's a long haul, we've to change and challenge society. The trafficking and the trade are getting institutionalised, it's a modern form of sexual slavery," she warns. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)
Official Response and Action
139 prostituted Nepalese girls were rescued through a police raid in Kamatipura, India and were then repatriated to Katmandu. (Soma Wadhwa, "For sale childhood," Outlook, 1998)