Thursday, December 03, 2009

The People vs The State

Geetisha Dasgupta

The Salva Judum (meaning the Peace Hunt) was constituted in Chattisgarh to make way for peaceful acquisition of the natural resources by the bodies that pull the purse strings. The organization is a state sponsored and supported movement arming the civilians to keep the Naxalites at bay. They kept a tab on public reaction while villages together were turned upside down and ultimately razed to the ground. The Salva Judum is supplied with fire arms by the central police forces.

The Salva Judum was actually led by Mahendra Karma, elected on a Congress ticket, and the leader of the Opposition and had all out support of the BJP to ratify all he did. The organization was peopled by the Murias, a cadre which supported the Maoists earlier. Pulling the purse strings, there were people belonging to the contractor and miner communities who lend their support now to this group, waiting to see the success of their business plans. For example, the first financiers of the Salva Judum were Tata Steel and Essar who vouched for ‘peace’ as it may be interpreted against the business context. All these and much more have been revealed in a passage from a report published in 2009 by the Land Reforms Committee in set up by the UPA-1. The report reckons that the Salva Judum was principally set up to bring back ‘peace’ in the area: a peace by virtue of which all development business could be carried out without any humdrum.

What followed subsequently was an all out war between ideological brothers: the Salva Judum soon came to fight bitterly with the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The first strife was seen against and in the Muria village. The result was that, “640 villages as per official statistics were laid bare, burnt to the ground and emptied with the force of the gun and the blessings of the state. 350,000 tribals, half the total population of Dantewada district are displaced, their womenfolk raped, their daughters killed, and their youth maimed. Those who could not escape into the jungle were herded together into refugee camps run and managed by the Salva Judum.” Many others stay hidden in the forests or have moved out into nearby tribal habitats of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh etc. this is an open war now and would dig really deep holes on the landscape of this tribal tract.

Both Tata Steel and Essar Steel are now tightening their nets for the final bid to occupy these 640 deserted villages for mining and other allied business activities. Each of them wanted 7 villages originally and believed that these villages sat on the richest variety of iron ore available in India. Hindrance was created by the residents who put up slogans like “…don’t mess with the Murias…” or “…the Murias do not fear death…” These villages are otherwise available to the highest bidder.

A big question that emerges is one of violence and counter violence in which the state certainly appears somewhere and even takes a position definitively. A more difficult question however would be whether the state strikes first or merely retaliates!

For further information, please see Land Reforms Committee Report 2009 &

The Lives and Livelihoods of those Affected by the Zangmu Dam

Priyanca Mathur Velath

On 18 October, 2009, China revealed an ‘official’ plan to relocate a huge population of people who would be displaced by the Zangmu Dam. This is going to be China’s second largest resettlement plan, after the resettlement of the 1.27 million people displaced by the Three Gorges Hydro-Power Project. The people who are being evacuated from their homes are those living in the area around the proposed Danjiangkou reservoir in the Hubei and Hunan provinces, where a sluice will be built to divert water from the Yangtze river and its tributaries, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Information has been received that the Nanshan Regional Administration had issued orders as early as October 30, 2007 for the evacuation of people from the area from November 1, 2007. According to this order, the dam site was to include all areas upto 3310 m above sea level and people inhabiting these areas were asked to vacate. According to Indian media reports, resettlement authorities in Henan have already chalked out a huge resettlement project affecting 3.3. Lakh people spread over the central Chinese provinces of Henan and Hubei. The end-time of the resettlement process has been fixed at 2011, Xinhua said, citing Henan provincial authorities.

According to information with the Indian media, there is evidence that China has begun constructing a dam on the river that is known as the Yarlungzangbo (or Yarlong Tsangpo to the Tibetans). The plan is to build a series of five medium-sized dams along the river in the Nanshan region at Zangmu, Jiacha or Gyatsa, Zhongda, Jiexu and Langzhen, with the one at Zangmu being the first one. More information is available on the Zangmu hydrolectrical project, that was inaugurated on March 16, 2009 and where the first concrete was poured on April 2 this year. This Zangmu dam is supposed to be a gravity dam with water blocking structures that could mean the construction of a reservoir. It is expected to generate 540 MW; its height will be 116m, length 389.5m and it is to be 19 m wide at the top and 76 m wide at the bottom. It’s a 1.138 billion Yuan project that has been awarded to a five-company consortium, the Huaeneng Corporation, one of China’s biggest power companies. The tendering process for this entire project is being overseen by the Three Gorges International Corporation. In fact this water-diversion project could be nearly three times as expensive as the world’s largest hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges Dam, where the villages of the affected people had been flooded by a 660 km (410 mile) long reservoir that that dam had created in the middle of the Yangtze River.

A month ago, the Gezhouba group is believed to have publicly noted that the setting up of the concrete feed line to the Zangmu Dam had been successfully completed. In fact since February, satellite images have shown construction activity in Zangmu and Ziacha with evidence of labour quarters. Yet, let alone informing India of its plans, China has continuously just issued bald-faced denials when questioned about this dam.

The essential idea of this entire project is to divert water hundreds of kilometers to provide water to booming cities in China’s arid north like Beijing, Tianjin, Henan and Hubei. Its three routes are supposed to move billions of tons of water from China’s central, southern and western regions through pipes and canals to the fast growing northern cities. In fact, the central route, which is expected to supply one-fourth of Beijing’s water, is expected to be completed by 2014. But what needs to be noted in that there have been warnings issued by critics that ‘environmental damage will be created by this water diversion and boomtown’s thirst will not be quenched.’ There is also growing concern among opponents about the mass scale displacement that this project is going to entail.

The Chinese provincial government is assuring its people that each relocated family will be allotted new arable land in the newly built villages according to a standard of 0.1 hectare per person. It has also been insisting that not only will the soil of the approved new resettlement areas be good but that these sites will also have convenient traffic conditions. It has also been saying that it will come up with ‘preferential policies’ to help compensate for the relocation losses suffered by the evacuated people. People have been promised compensation for unmovable property like old house and also an annual subsidy of 600 yuan ($88) per person for twenty years according to the official media quote of Duan Shiyao, Deputy Chief of the Hubei Provincial Resettlement Bureau. But earlier this year there were also reports of complaints from some villagers that they had been forced by officials to sign agreements to relocate and that they had been offered less than half the land they currently use for farming and other means of income. Thus there are valid fears among people that post displacement they may face unequal and forced resettlement.

The biggest fear is the impact that this project may have on lower riparian economies like India and Bangladesh. The reality is that India has no robust water-sharing agreements with China and so may end up being at the losing end if a large share of the Tsangpo river, flowing into India as the Brahmaputra, gets robbed. India needs to institutionalize a sharing mechanism before it is too late, and before Beijing presents New Delhi with a fait accompli about its dams. According to Ramaswamy Iyer, former Water Resources Secretary of the Government of India, the water issue needs to be given more attention, and made as important a part of the agenda as the border issue. The lives and livelihoods of many people dependent on the flowing waters and lush fertile banks of this river, in India and Bangladesh, stands to get affected. On top of all this, one can also never be sure of how far and to what extent the R&R plans outlined by the Chinese authorities actually see the light of the day.


1.Pranab Dhal Samanta, ‘China begins building dam on its side of the Brahmaputra’,, October 15, 2009.
2.Ananth Krishnan, ‘India, China and Water Security’, The Hindu, October 21, 2009.

Esmeralda: A Transgender Detainee Speaks by Break Through

Suha Priyadarshini Chakravorty

Despite the Obama Administration’s assurance to alter the functionality of the Detention System, not much has been done. The much ambitious Detention System is stretched across over 500 country jails, privately run prisons and federal facilities, with immigration detention being a $ 1.8 billion business (estimated to hold approx. 442 941 detainees in custody in 2009 alone). The accounts from these detention centres portray horrifying depictions of ruthless and brutal existences of detainees where they are denied basic facilities such as visitation, access to lawyers, medical care, and are subject to regular physical and verbal abuse. Vulnerable people including asylum seekers, pregnant women, children, lawful permanent residents as well as US citizens find themselves amongst those detained in these centres.

The short video ‘Esmeralda: A Transgender Detainee Speaks’ by Break Through as part of the Restore Fairness Campaign is a similar vignette that depicts a dismal chronicle of the US detention system, whereby transgender detainees undergo severe mental turmoil and physical abuse in centres which are meant for protection. The video deals with plight of Esmeralda, a transgender who seeks asylum in the United States of America, which she considered as having a more conducive environment than her home country, Mexico. Her aspiration to lead a ‘normal’ life at a free environment of the US turned out to be her worst nightmare. Facing discrimination at Mexico even from her family she wanted to pursue her ambitions at the United States and therefore had applied for asylum in the country. Subsequently she was detained. At the detention centre she was (like other transgender detainees) kept in a segregated cell and would even be taken to the bathroom in handcuffs. She says, “They would handcuff us as if we were murderers and were trying to escape.... but we were not trying to run away.” Esmeralda was also not allowed to drink or do anything that the other detainees were. Further she faced severe sexual abuse by an immigration guard who forced himself on her since she was handcuffed in a cell and could do little to defend herself. Additionally, when she protested against it and the immigration guard was sentenced to jail for a 6 months term, Esmeralda began to be watched even more closely for the guards were angry with her on telling on one of them. She felt so claustrophobic and suicidal that she wanted psychiatric help, which she was further denied. Following this, she cancelled her asylum and went back to Mexico and on applying for it the second time, she was detained with male detainees which was further more shocking for her and for as long as she lived in the detention centre, she lived in constant terror. Finally, she was granted asylum in the US. Esmeralda currently finds herself as a successful advocate fighting for the cause of sexual violence and its survivors in the US. Thus even while on the one hand, the video exudes a strong pessimistic undertone it ends on an optimistic flavour of ‘hope’ for positive change.

Watch video at:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Displaced in Media Space as Well

Chitra Ahanthem

As I sit down to write this post on the nature of media reporting on the issues faced by people living in border town of Moreh (on the Indo-Myanmar border) in Manipur, it would be pertinent to state that no newspapers have hit the stands today. The All Manipur Working Journalist Union took the decision of not publishing newspapers following the assault and harassment of two journalists by police commandoes. This is another ‘normal’ scene from Manipur but before one assumes that the media representatives in this highly militarized state bear the brunt of covering issues faced by the people consider this: a senior reporter from a Manipuri daily paper was apprehended by security personnel while ferrying underground rebels of a particular group about two weeks back. There was a shoot out in which two civilians were killed in the said incident. Last year, a lethod bomb was gift wrapped and delivered to The Sangai Express for failing to carry the press release of a particular group while there have been too many instances of newspaper going off the stands in protest against attempts to muzzle free press to be considered news or write home about (pun intended).

But why is the media being talked about in a posting that is supposed to look at media reporting of displacement and their impact on women living in border areas? Precisely because in the scheme of things that happen on a daily basis in Manipur, it is the “breaking news” of grenades lobbed at residences of Government officials/businessmen/contractors/private entrepreneurs (for failing to pay extortion amounts); shoot outs between various security personnel and militant groups or between the different militant groups itself; calls for bandhs/rallies/general strikes etc that makes it to newspapers. With the daily and regular chain of breaking news taking place on one hand, small media houses which are understaffed and mostly underpaid (often with no money kept aside for traveling to remote areas), it goes without saying that Imphal, the capital city remains the center of attention. Rural reporting or in the case of Manipur, writing about interior regions in the districts is made possible only when reporters accompany a Government official on tour or when they are taken along by NGOs or other civil organizations going to the said regions for their program coverage.

It is thus not surprising then that there has been no issue based reporting so far on women affected by displacement, either in Moreh or elsewhere in other parts of Manipur. A media scan of three newspapers: Imphal Free Press; Sangai Express, Huieyen Lanpao shows that the only news reports that mention “Moreh” are all of shoot outs or people being killed. The reports are all based on press releases sent by various security personnel including militant groups.

A scan of media reporting going back by a few years did bring up two stories (one of which is my own). “Desperately Seeking Samte” (IFP, Sep 21, 2008) is about the fate of Haikhohat Samte a 25 year old girl who was caught in a cross fire between the Army and an underground group. A bullet pierced her spinal chord when she went back to her house to collect household items and some food grains that the family had left behind while running away across the border. It also talked about how the displacement from their house also meant being uprooted from all things familiar to them and having to shift from one makeshift camp to another before finally taking refuge with a relative living in Moreh.

The second feature story (Refugees in a Supermarket, Anjulika Thingnam for Women Features Service, webcasted in 2007) is about the travails of being refugees, a situation brought about by intense militarization: the sprouting of land mines in the villages of Moreh and intensified firing among security forces and underground groups. The story also talks at length about inadequate facilities at the “refugee camp” (a supermarket) and hence the lack of toilet space.
Apart from the above two stories, there is little about the people of Moreh and the issues they face in their lives. Yet again, there is little about most other interior parts of the state as well apart from the regular news reports of people getting displaced due to pressure points going off.

Fencing the Borders

Supurna Banerjee

Embarking a crowded train from Sealdah on my first ever field visit to Nadia I was in no way prepared for the experience that unfolded in the next two days of the trip. Situated in the heart of the Bengal delta with the Bhagirathi on the west and the Padma running into the Meghna estuary on the east, it is bounded by the district of Murshidabad on the north and north west and on the north-east and east it is bounded by the districts of Rajsahi and Kusthia in Bangladesh. My destination was a border village Char Meghna. It lies next to Murshidabad district’s Karimpur. It falls under the Hogolberia Police station.

Charmeghna is a Bangladeshi enclave, the land belonging to Bangladesh, residents being Indian citizens. The entire village is located beyond the electric fence. A pillar proudly proclaiming its Bangladeshi identity greeted us right at the entrance gate of the village. We had to submit our identification documents and sign our names before we could go in. It was almost like entering a high security apartment. Charmeghna is a strange paradox of the Partition as is Jamalpur on the other side of the border—this time Indian land with Bangladeshi citizens. The village of Charmeghna is situated between the electric fence and the Mathabhanga River, a distributary of Padma, beyond which is Bangladesh. The villagers are primarily engaged in agriculture.

My first meeting was with the seniors of the village in the primary school where they were waiting for me. Some of the young girls and older people accompanied me to the BSF post located within the village. From there we went to see the river which served as a border between the two countries. The river in reality turned out to be a narrow channel of water which would pose no kind of barrier to anyone wanting to cross the area. Following the exploration I was invited to one of the houses so that I could interact with the villagers.

The BSF, they held was a constant presence in their lives. But this has not been the situation always. In the past there was no BSF posting in the area which resulted into unregulated crime by people allegedly from the other side of the border. As a result of a movement spearheaded by the civil society organizations and the residents of the area the BSF was finally stationed within the village. Though there was complains of harassment by the jawans there had been no atrocities committed by them. They agreed that the BSF stationing has actually made the area more secure. Though there were still thefts of crops and cattle by ‘those Bangladeshis’ its frequency and intensity has definitely lessened. The villagers however were vociferous in articulating their grievances over the general state of affairs —lack of administration and development that they have been forced to grapple with everyday. Lack of electricity, good roads has been lacunas plaguing them for a very long time. The government perceived in the form of panchayat and the political parties seem oblivious to their needs. They only approach the villagers during election time and disappear once the polls are over. Moreover the residents of the village mostly hail from tribal background. But the administration does not supply them with the Scheduled Tribes certificates. Though they get all the benefits and privileges that the Scheduled Tribes are entitled to but without a certificate this would be true only within Nadia. It seems that with the gates closing behind them mainland India also turns her back towards them.

My next visit was to the local police station. I had the chance to interact with the local OC Arup Kumar Pal and he gave me a quite detailed insight on the state of the border villages. The inconvenience of the people living in the international bordering zone is caused by i) international security point of view and ii) when BSF personnel are guided by their whims. Cultivation of jute is forbidden adjacent to the IB fencing considering the international security point of view. He, however, claimed that trafficking of women and children have become a rare instance in this part of the Indo-Bangladesh border. However he is optimistic about the situation in these areas. “The local problems of the area are found to be solved with the intervention of local police station, local political personnel and, local NGO authority.” He concedes that the people of this area as poverty stricken mostly labourers or based on agriculture. Being located far from the district headquarter development is less, education is little and consciousness is minimal. Hence marginalization is only natural.

I was to spend the night in a border townlet called Shikarpur. It was much bigger in size than Charmeghna and much better developed with electricity and concrete roads. However this was also located at the margins. Just behind the settlement there was a far wider Mathabhanga beyond which was Bangladesh. A large contingent of BSF has been posted here. Though located just by the border it was not shut off from the Indian mainland by a gate which probably explains its much better condition than Charmeghna.
Being kept out of India’s border fence and not being a part of Bangladesh the very fact of its existence aggravates the security and developmental concerns that people struggle with everyday. The dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion continues as a part of their daily struggle for existence.

The Line: Women, Partition and the Gender Order in Cyprus by Cynthia Cockburn

Reviewed by Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

The book entitled The Line: Women, Partition and the Gender Order in Cyprus written by Cynthia Cockburn is about the Line – the Green Line, which separates the island of Cyprus into two parts: Greek Cypriots dominated area (controlling over only half of the Capital city including 63% of the total land area in South) and the Turkish Cypriots inhabitant area (controlling 37% of the land area in North known as Turkish Republic of North Cyprus). The Line is similar to the line, which partitions the state of Israel from Palestinian territories with an area of no man’s land between two parallel fences. For almost 29 years since 1974 this Green Line of Cyprus was a closed border with two checkpoints. Ordinary Turkish and Geek Cypriots have not been allowed to move freely through the checkpoints. Suddenly on 21 April 2003 the authorities of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) announced that the line would be opened between 8 a.m and midnight. In fact, with Cyprus joining the European Union in 2004, the pressure is mounting on political leaders to resolve forty years of conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and to erase the partition line that scars the island. However, the opening of the line did not mean an agreement permitting ‘return’ and the permanent peace agreement remains elusive.

Against this backdrop Cynthia in her book has tried to show how a geo-political partition is not just armored fencing, it is also a line inside our heads, and in our hearts too. In fact, the physical fence is a manifestation of these more ‘cognitive’ and emotional lines that shape our thoughts and feelings. The inner lines express who we think we are and who are not like us, whom we trust and whom we are afraid of. She has correctly pointed out that, when we are very afraid or very angry, at some identifiable moment, a line springs out and plants itself in the earth as a barrier (p.1).

The book is women-centered and gender analytical-based on participant observations, interviews and group discussions with women living at both north and south parts of the line. In order to make gender differentiation, which is a political project (power, purpose and collective action) like ethnic differentiation this book concentrates on Cyprus through women’s lens. The women’s organization called Hands Across the Divide (HAD) is the focus of her study. This book portrays a line tracing the fortune of this remarkable Cypriot women’s project working for peace, using the Internet to defy the barriers to communicating placed between them.

The book is about the ‘making of difference’ and categorizing of people and about partition as a strategy for dealing with conflict. In her study Cynthia has shown us how the distance between people of Turkish and Greek cultures on the island of Cyprus was widened in a number of political projects, so that they became increasingly separate from each other physically and socially. The author has dealt with the inner process of ‘line making’, ‘line negotiating’ and ‘line melting’ based on the narratives of those women, who have shared their memories of nationalist attacks on Turkish Cypriots in 1960s, the violent expulsion of Greek Cypriots in 1974 by the Turkish military intervention following the coup d’etat by Greek Cypriot extremists associated with the Greek military junta and also the gender-specific experiences of being refugees.

While dealing with the narratives she has claimed that history is not memory, but divergent‘re-remembering’, shaped in culturally specific ways. History is recounted with different meanings in north and the south of Cyprus. The violent events sketched in her book, told, re-told, using the words that often differ on either side of the Line are powerful constructs of contemporary Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot national identities. Narratives of what happened or did not happen in very early times often carry even more political freight than accounts of what happened yesterday, because they are about ‘who we really are’ (p.41). Cynthia has agreed that, popular memory is selective. Many women tell one half of the story that of their own people’s suffering, and forget the other (p.44).

The book comprising 243 pages is divided into eight chapters excluding the introduction. In the first chapter (pp.23-40) she has discussed the pleasures and dangers inherent in difference and differentiation, and the way in which individuals acquire a sense of self in relation to ethnic and gender identities. She has ended the chapter with a brief consideration of partition as a political strategy for dealing with conflict and of transversal politics in the renewal of dialogues. While explaining partition as a political strategy she has rightfully argued that a physical partition in a way is a frozen time. Against this backdrop the events in Cypriot history first suggested the Line as a possibility, and then planted it in the ground. (p.38)

The following chapters (Chapters 2 and 3: pp.41-88)) are historical and she has explained in these chapters that how HAD has attempted to overcome the sources of enmity and separation. Chapter 2 specifically has dealt with the period 1960-1973, a period in which nationalist movements and international pressures turned tension into enmity between Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking Cypriots. In Chapter 3 (pp.65-88) her main focus is on the year of 1974, the year of Greek Cypriot coup and the Turkish military action that brought partition. The many lines that already circled Turkish Cypriot enclaves were transformed into a single Line, Green Line extended from one side of the island to the other making the line fixed and impermeable. While sharing the interviews of women that she has captured through her field trips she in this chapter has tried to portray how large population movements have resulted eventually in an ethnically homogeneous Turkish Cypriot north and Greek Cypriot south and also how masculinities acquired hegemony over its separate space.

The next few chapters (Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7: pp.89-194) depending on women’s perspectives Cynthia has described contemporary realities in Cyprus to help us to understand the prevailing gender order and gender cultures. She has illustrated how women perceived the political, economic and military realities of contemporary Cyprus. Based on interviews she looked at how the parallel societies developed after the barbed wire rolled out across the island. Though there is a basis for cooperation between women either side of the Line, but certain differences of positioning, make challenging demands on mutual understanding. In order to explore the changes in the gender order in Cyprus she has put stress on the family and marriage, the politics of sex and the body.

She has claimed that women living parallel lives in adjacent societies, whose gender orders are the systems of male dominance. In both regions, the patriarchal gender line drawn historically between men and women. Women are contesting for political power, but remain on the margins, their issues rarely addressed, obliged to compete with men in the prevailing masculine mode of politics that they find distasteful and disadvantaging. More women have been coming into employment, and seeking opportunities in business and the professions, but unchanged domestic responsibilities and inadequate state support, combined with vertical and horizontal lines of exclusion maintained by those, mainly men, who control access to opportunity, result in women having less disposable income of their own and fewer prospect of economic autonomy. Neither militarism nor nationalism is conducive to women’s equality and autonomy (p.116).

In fact, she has explored the reasons why the feminist movements weakened on the either side of the Green Line. While recounting the grassroots rapprochement activity in Cyprus she has explained the ‘bi-communal’ project of HAD to bring the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots into contact for peace building.

Finally, in conclusion (pp.193-226) Cynthia has tried to explore what the experience of members of HAD and other women in Cyprus suggests for a women’s movement that might be a collective actor in a future process of peace-making and social reconstruction, what Maria, one of her respondent specified as ‘feminist intervention’ and Anthola, another respondent called it as ‘holism’.

This study is extremely valuable document to all who work on feminism, partition, displacement and also who strive to put an end to racist, sexist and militarist oppression and violence in today’s world. Black and white photographs printed in this book have added precious dimension to it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

As Muslim-Han Violence Recedes in China’s Xinjiang, an Exlied Uyghur Longs for Freedom in Delhi’s Bylanes

Shivam Vij
[A shorter, edited version of this story appeared in Open magazine on 16 July 2009)“Ey pekir Uyghur, oyghan!” (Hey poor Uyghur, wake up!]

- Abduhalik Uyghur (1901-1933), killed by a Chinese warlord for inciting Uyghur nationalism through his poetry.

“Kashmir ke peechay hamara mulk hain,” says Abdullah Dawood, 49, sitting in a guest house in Nizamuddin, in a room hired by a fellow-Uyghur visitor from Istanbul. “Just beyond the Karakoram pass,” smiles the vistor, Osman Uzturuk. Uzturuk adds in Turkic, and Abdullah translates: “In the olden days, much before India’s independence, we had great links with India.”
As Uzturuk fills us with information about the riots in Xinjiang since 5 July, Abdullah’s mind returns to that night twelve years ago in the old city of Ghulja, officially known as Yining. 5 February 1997: Abdullah, who ran a grocery store, let go of his reticence about politics and decided to join a rally demanding freedom. The protests were sparked by the execution of 30 Uyghur independence activists accompanied by the crackdown on attempts to revive traditional Uyghur culture such as traditional gatherings called meshrep. The demonstrations were crushed by the People’s Liberation Army, who killed nine.

The trigger for Abdullah to join those protests was the enforcement of the two-child norm. Abdullah had four daughters and had just adopted a son, and though he could get away with bribes, those who couldn’t, had to see their children killed, he says. Plainclothesmen made videos and took pictures, and Abdullah got wind that the army would come knocking in the night looking for all those who took part. Fearing that he may become part of the long list of the ‘disappeared’, Abdullah ran away – first to ürümqi (pronounced Oroomchi), the capital of the province 800 kms away, then to Tibet, and from there to Nepal. In 2003, when Nepal was threatening to deport him to China despite his refugee certificate from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he came to India.

“Xinjiang” is Mandarin for “new territory”; the local Muslim population still calls it “Turki” and separatists want to establish a new country, “East Turkestan”. This is part of a vast swathe in Central Asia once called Turkestan. The region today is divided between the West Turkestan countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan – countries once part of the Soviet Union. Culturally, the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs of Xinjiang are closer to these people. “All the nations Russia had captured are free today,” says Abdullah, “Only we are still chained.” Abdullah looks at a map of China and shows how much smaller China would be without Xinjiang, whose land area is double of Pakistan.

Under the Qing dynasty, even before the formation of the People’s Republic of China under Mao, the Uyghurs tried several times, in armed uprisings, to be free from the control of Chinese warlords. The Chinese Republic’s main strategy of dealing with the separatism of the Turkic Muslim Uyghurs has been, like Tibet, to give incentives to the majority Han to settle in Xinjiang. Today, there are 7 million Han Chinese in the area, and 8 million Uyghurs. The capital ürümqi has 75% Han Chinese and only 16% Uyghurs. “These Chinese census figures are lies,” insists Abdullah, “There are only 2.5 million of us left there.”

Such were the disputes Abdullah had with the news this past week on TV and radio. “The Chinese government says only 184 died. But my friends in Istanbul say it was 3,000.” These were riots sparked on 5 July in ürümqi when the confrontation between the police and Uyghur protestors led to the Uyghurs targeting the local Han population. The Han backlash lasted several days. The riots were caused in the first place by the killings of two Uyghur workers in Guangdong, in another end of China. The Uyghurs claimed that the Chinese did not protect Uyghur workers and let off the Han killers without punishment. The murdered workers were accused of raping a Han woman, charges later found untrue by Chinese authorities.

Abdullah is worried about his family’s safety, though they live 800 kms away from ürümqi. Over the years there has been little contact, and Abdullah doesn’t know English and is not familiar with using the internet. Between the violence that led to Abdullah’s exile and the riots past week, there have been many such instances. “Kashmiris also ask for freedom, but India does not brutally repress them the way China does,” says Abdullah. “There have been instances when they deliberately organise rallies by their informers amongst us to see who comes out, and then those persons disappear. Bodies are found months later,” he says with anguish. “All this never comes out.” He speaks constantly of Chinese brutality, of zulm, claiming that Uyghurs are not even given the right of assembly, their culture is being destroyed and human rights violated on a daily basis.

When on 17 April 2008 the Olympic torch arrived in Delhi, says Abdullah, Tibetans were allowed to protest, but he, a lone Uyghur in Delhi, was detained at a police station in Seelampur in north-east Delhi. “The Chinese had told them that Uyghurs are terrorists. But the police were very nice with me. I called a friend and got addresses of websites that document Chinese torture on us. The officer couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw those images,” he says.

The Chinese have restricted religious freedom. Abdullah says he couldn’t keep a beard, the syllabus in Islamic schools were regulated and only the government-approved version of the Qu’ran that could be published. China, on its part, has found it easier to quell separatism since 9/11, branding them as terrorists. China claimed that some terrorist incidents before the Olympics had Uyghur groups behind them, and suspects that they may be getting help from the Taliban in the Af-Pak region.

The Han migration to Xinjiang has made the Uyghurs feel alien in their own land. The alienation is visible when Abdullah says: “There’s a reason why the Chinese oppression is so brutal. They don’t believe in god and fear no one. They eat rats, frogs, dogs and monkeys!” The disgust changes to ridicule when he adds: “They even eat donkeys!”

Abdullah’s friend from Istanbul is similarly exiled, and both say they’d rather be exiled than live under Chinese rule. Abdullah did not agree to be photographed as he may be recognized and his family back home harassed. A photograph in a Kathmandu paper in 2003 did him great harm. After the newspaper article about Uyghur refugees appeared, Nepal deported four of them under Chinese pressure, he claims; Abdullah and seven others escaped to Delhi. They have since then been re-settled by UNHCR in Sweden; it’s been years and Abdullah is waiting for his turn, too. It’s the heat he wants to escape the most. “My home was colder than Kashmir! ” he says, cutting coriander leaves that he will mix with his soup. “It’ll help against the itch and allergies I get from this heat.”

“In Nepal we got enough money from UNHCR to live by, but here we get only 2,245 rupees a month,” says Abdullah. India does not allow employment for international refugees. He survives thanks to the visiting Uyghur and Turkish businessmen from Istanbul. They come here to buy scarves, shawls and cushion covers, selling them in Istanbul at thrice the price. Abdullah, who has picked up enough Hindustani in all these years, helps the Istanbul businessmen with translation and bargaining, and then takes a commission from them as well as the Indian wholesalers. That’s how he’s able to afford a room in Delhi.

When friends come from Istanbul, they bring traditional naan and cook mutton without Indian spices, and he asks them to take him away. It is from one of them that he got the number of Washington based Rebiya Kadeer, head of the World Uyghur Congress, whom China has accused of fomenting the present riots. “I keep calling her and she has promised help in re-settling me,” he says, “India is good but there’s no Turki here. I get very lonely.” Freedom, he concedes, will never come. “I am prepared to die here.”

Review of Internal Displacement and the Construction of Peace

Suha Priyadarshini Chakravorty

Note: The Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs coupled with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana had organised a seminar on Internal Displacement and Peace building at Bogota, Columbia, from 11-12 November, 2008, the proceedings of which are presented in Internal Displacement and the Construction of Peace: Summary Report

The report on Internal Displacement and Peace-building in Columbia proffers an exclusive dimension on the relationship underlined between internal displacement and peace. It emphasises the role of the various actors such as governments, multi-lateral organisations, academic institutions, civil society and representatives of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) that by their way of dynamic negotiations and co-operations predicates the course of the peace-building process. The report seeks to respond to the needs of protection and assistance of the displaced people especially in crisis situations of armed conflicts and violence. It holds that the rights of the IDPs and sustainable solutions cannot be achieved as long as lasting peace is not realized. Simultaneously it harps on a correlation of the issues pertinent to internal displacement that need to be included in different phases of the peace building processes in order to ensure ‘durable’ outcomes.

The report states that the way the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (since 2005), had been supporting the cause of IDPs and had enthusiastically assisted the Peace initiative of the Representative of the Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement has worked, they had been able to bridge the hiatus between peace building and humanitarian issues related to internal displacement in a rationally consistent manner since. Additionally Peace agreements and Peace-Building (2007) have been central for the successful dissemination of the study’s results both at the multilateral and bilateral levels. Working groups have also contributed in terms of having explored the following relationship between a) Land and territory, b) Transitional Justice, c) Durable solutions, d) Participation of IDPs and e) Right of IDPs in the context of dealing with the IDP agenda in general.

It becomes evident herein that the constant plea for peace is the result of armed groups operating in Columbia. There is thus a deliberate need to look at the structural causes of displacement especially the expansion of mega projects and the intervening factors such as the drug war. It was also observed that the impact of the conflict on the ethnic populace given their historical and cultural attachments to the land has had deep-rooted ramifications in the IDP crisis. While the governmental response was largely identifying the nature of the victims (that involved both a question of political responsibility as well as a moral commitment) and thereby providing humanitarian assistance, the RSG went further in taking a step towards recognising IDPs not merely as victims and passive recipients of aid and assistance, but as active participants who could exercise will and choice in making ‘justice’ participatory.

Interestingly certain key issues come into critical purview in the report. The fact that displacement and the process of peace building have had repercussions on each other had been the steady narrative of the report. The report further focuses on the various quandaries of especially ‘land’ (absence of a centralised registry, inadequate mechanisms of registering information, diversity of relations corresponding to the differing land situations, multiple types of displacement coupled with the decreasing autonomy of international cooperation to work directly with the affected) in Columbia that has augmented the conflicts in the region. It has also been realised that the IDPs have been the major victims that have arisen as a category post conflict situations in Columbia and that there is a need to shift from the welfarist aid offering approach to a more participatory approach whereby the IDPs would be involved in the process of peace building through transitional justice. Thus the report highlights the importance of sustainable solutions that need to be achieved through such transitional justice, adequate monitoring systems including adequate ‘laws’ coupled with international cooperation that can dually solve post displacement hangovers and effectively contribute towards peace-building.

The report in it’s reiterations maintains that since the ‘internally displaced people’ represent one of the most vulnerable categories that suffer the consequences of wars, and have specific needs, governments must protect and assist them in accordance with those specificities. The report however gets entangled into the problem of circularity with regard to its explanation on the question of ensuring ‘durable solutions.’ While it states on the one hand that without peace there is no hope for durable solutions it on the other maintains that durable peace is but the result of durable solutions. However the way in which the report upholds the notion of Truth, Justice and Reparation in acknowledging the true measure of displacement dilemmas and problem solving tactics particularly in the case of the IDPs, talks of more than a commitment that transgresses welfarist ideals towards a more participatory global ethos of cooperation and peace-building.

In Alien Country ~ South Asia Must Coordinate Its Stand on Refugees

Compiled by Priyanca Mathur Velath

THE history of South Asia is unique in the context of population displacement. People have been pushed beyond their borders in the wake of wars or they have left their country of origin on ethnic, racial, ideological or religious grounds. Migration has taken place for environmental or developmental reasons as well. Since Independence, India and Pakistan have witnessed a massive movement of refugees. After Partition, 7.5 million Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan crossed over to India and 7.2 million Muslim refugees went over to Pakistan. It was the largest recorded refugee movement in history. There was little international assistance to cope with this massive humanitarian crisis. In 1971, 10 million refugees crossed over to India during Bangladesh’s liberation struggle. In 1979, 3.5 million Afghans fled their country in the wake of the Soviet invasion and received asylum in Pakistan, of whom 1.2 million are still said to be there in the refugee camps. From the seventies to the nineties, Bangladesh witnessed the influx of over 300,000 Muslim refugees from Rakhine district in Myanmar, of whom nearly 30,000 are yet to be repatriated. Similarly, 90,000 Bhutanese of Nepali origin were expelled and a substantial number have been accommodated in the refugee camps of Jhapa district of Nepal. However, many of them have recently been resettled in third countries by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Sri Lanka has often been described as an ‘Island of Refugees’ because of the external displacement of Tamils and internal displacement of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. Though Sri Lanka is not regarded as a country that grants asylum, it is well known as a “refugee-producing country”. Since 1983, Sri Lanka has produced hundreds of thousands of refugees apart from over 500,000 Sri Lankan Tamil ‘jet refugees’ to the Western world. The majority of Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu were voluntarily repatriated, but over 60,000 still remain because of the disturbed conditions in north-east Sri Lanka. Since the 1960s, India has played host to over 100,000 Tibetan refugees and 50,000 Buddhist Chakma refugees from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. Some of them were repatriated recently. India has permitted the UNHCR to assist about 12,000 Afghan refugees on humanitarian grounds. Maldives is the only SAARC country which has neither produced nor received a significant refugee population. Despite the movement of refugees and the humanitarian issue of asylum, none of the SAARC countries has acceded to the 1951 International Convention on Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, which has been ratified by 136 countries. However, all the SAARC countries, except Bhutan and Nepal, have offices of the UNHCR ~ the UN agency responsible for the promotion of the “Refugee Instruments” and marshalling of international humanitarian assistance. The reasons advanced by the SAARC countries for not acceding to the 1951 Convention or the 1967 Protocol are very similar. They argue that they have well-grounded traditions of asylum comparable to international standards, sometimes even better than what is practised by some of the signatory states to the International Refugee Instruments. Therefore, they are in favour of dealing with the issue on the basis of ad hoc bilateral policies. However, these countries ~ with the exception of India ~ have welcomed international humanitarian assistance based on the need to share the burden. The SAARC countries further argue that the 1951 Convention or the 1967 Protocol are inadequate to comprehensively address the issue, largely the outcome of internal conflicts and not the fear of persecution by the states per se. In support of their contention of inadequacy of the International Refugee Instruments, they cite the regional refugee instruments of Africa, the 1958 Organisation of African Unity Convention and the one for refugees in Latin America, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees. These, they claim, are more comprehensive in their definition of refugees. The situation in South Asia has affected both national security and inter-state relations. The countries are generally reluctant to discuss the problem on a humanitarian basis. Since all refugees are technically considered illegal aliens, they have no institutional protection or the protection of the rule of law. In this context, a regional convention or declaration by the SAARC countries will be timely and relevant. Such an agreement on fundamental questions as the definition of a refugee, the granting of asylum and the exceptions thereto, and the voluntary nature of eventual repatriation will curb friction between the state interlocutors. A SAARC Refugee Convention or Declaration will mark a major step forward in developing a humanitarian regime in the region…………. (Statesman 31/8/09)

10,000 Flee to China as Myanmar Fight Raises Civil War Fears

BANGKOK: Continuous fighting between Myanmar's junta and rebel ethnic armies in the northeast has driven more than 10,000 refugees into China. It has also raised fears of a full scale civil war, media and analysts said Friday. A battle in the remote Shan state between the Kokang rebel group and the government's army began Thursday, breaking a 20-year ceasefire, according to the US Campaign for Burma (USCB), which uses Myanmar's former name. More than 10,000 refugees have crossed into the Chinese border town of Nansan in south-western Yunnan province and at least one Myanmar policeman was reportedly killed during the battle, the campaign group said. The exodus began after Myanmar's junta deployed troops in the mainly ethnic Chinese region on August 8, and now "only elderly peoples are left at homes," it added. Chinese state media reported Friday, citing local officials, that Myanmar nationals were still crossing the border into Yunnan province, without giving a specific figure. "It's difficult to get a real time update of that number," Yu Chunyan, a spokesman for the provincial government, was quoted as saying in the English-language Global Times. The newspaper reported that China had increased the number of armed police along the common border. Refugees have been settled in a temporary camp, and Chinese officials were providing food and medical care, the state Xinhua news agency reported, citing unnamed provincial government sources. Another ethnic group, the United Wa State Army, has now reportedly joined the Kokang forces' fight against the Myanmar junta, according to Khuensai Jaiyen, editor of the Shan Herald Agency for News. "People say they have been hearing gunshots and explosions," he told AFP, warning that other groups currently under ceasefire agreements could join in. "If the Burmese army is returning to a reconciliatory stance it might get better but if not it might be blown into a full-scale civil war." He added that the government was trying to create stability ahead of elections scheduled in 2010 but warned "it will be the opposite." David Mathieson, a Myanmar analyst at Human Rights Watch, agreed full-scale civil war was "a very real fear." "This could potentially be the flashpoint that draws in several other groups to the resumption of open conflict," he said. Myanmar, under military rule since 1962, has signed ceasefires with 17 ethnic armed groups. The USCB said before the battle that the Kokang forces - known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army - had split, with one faction joining the government's troops occupying Laogai, capital of the Kokang region. The other faction had refused to obey the junta's order to place its troops under army control. Peng Jiasheng, leader of the rebel group, issued a statement via USCB late Thursday on the "urgent need of peaceful and patient discussion between all parties concerned." Refugees began to flee three weeks ago after Myanmar sent dozens of military police to crack down on a gun-repair factory suspected of being a front for drugs production, sparking fear among locals, Chinese media said. According to the USCB, the junta has since deployed thousands of troops to the region and announced that Peng Jiasheng and his family were fugitives wanted for narcotics production.(Times of India 28/8/09)

44,000 to be Re-Settled Soon, Says Colombo Murlidhar Reddy

Compiled by Priyanca Mathur Velath

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government is gearing to re-settle in the next two weeks 44,000 of the nearly 3 lakh war displaced, said senior officials here on Wednesday. These displaced persons, housed in relief camps on the outskirts of Vavuniya town, are to be sent back to their places of residence in Jaffna district before the onset of monsoon. Internews, an NGO, quoted Vavuniya Government Agent (District Collector) P.S.M. Charles as saying the arrangements were being made through the relevant GAs to resettle those who belong to places outside the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu. It said many of them lost their houses during the conflict and CARITAS organisation has come forward to construct semi- permanent houses in Jaffna district. Separately, U.K.-based Channel 4 aired video footage, which it could not authenticate, apparently showing a purported soldier shooting two people with their hands tied to their back in the area captured from LTTE. The channel said it obtained the video from “Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka”, a newly-formed forum of Sri Lanka-based journalists in self-exile and was filmed in January. Kilinochchi, administrative and political HQ of LTTE, fell into the hands of military on January 2 and Mullaithivu, the military HQ on January 25. Denouncing the video as “diabolical” and aimed at tarnishing the image of the nation, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry strongly and unequivocally denied the allegations. (The Hindu 27/8/09)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Update from Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HUROB) on Resettlement of Bhutanse Refugees


Almost after 18 years of refugee life in the seven refugee camps in two districts of Jhapa and Morang of eastern Nepal, the Bhutanese refugees heaved a sigh of relief of new hope to start a new life in new land when resettlement offer came from the core countries for Bhutanese refugees- USA, CANADA, AUSTRALIA, DENMARK, NORWAY, NETHERLANDS and NEW ZEALAND. With new hope, inspiration and aspirations of beginning a new and comfortable life away from a place where life was idle and environment was often disturbed by anti-social activities like murder, domestic violence, alcoholism, theft, rape, fight, threat of stoppage of facilities in the camps et al, Bhutanese refugees decided to take a new journey of life to make a new home in a strange land with diverse geography, climate, people, language and culture. Most of the refugees have consider the resettlement a windfall boon whereas few still remaining skeptic and few others holding strong conviction that one must fight for right and go back to ones own land. On the top of the refugees euphoria of resettlement, the UNHCR motivation and mobilization followed by documentary film of luxurious home with cars further bewilder the mind of refugees and their message of existence of peace and tranquility and absence of any violence and threat to life lured the most. Dollar dream, luxurious life and freedom led the refugees rush for application to the extent that some started postering at night of threat of their life and insecurity (a few cases cannot be ruled out)so that they should be given priority and process their case fast. Some sold off their landed properties. Not only that there are rumors even some refugees had bribed and bribing the officials in UNHCR and IOM concern with processing their applications to expedite fast as if they miss the opportunity of facilities there if they are late.

Perhaps those people who thought that nothing can scathe in the land of their destiny and choice must be wondering when hearing the news of murder of Bhutanese refugees, attack on Bhutanese refugees, robbing the Bhutanese refugees and mistreatment of school going children boarding or descending the bus or other places. Therefore, one must remember that everywhere, all is not well.

The news of murder of Hari Lall adhikari aged 22 years by a gun man on 26th July 2009 near his apartment has shocked the refugees here in Nepal and pondering why is such incidence taking place in the land of haven supposed to be peaceful with good people. Hari Lall Adhikari with his parents and two other members residing in Beldangi-II sector B2, hut no. 145/146 left the camp on 21st March 2009 and resettled in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. As heard he was working in a garment shop.

A few weeks ago there was news of attacked on Bhutanese refugees living in Bronx, New York in Syracuse. According to the news, eight men attacked Hari Rizal while walking on Syracuse North Side. He had to be taken to emergency room with swollen eyes and bleeding nose.

In another incidence six men attacked two Odari brothers, Ganga and Tara. One man pulled out a knife and other punched the duo. Surmising upon the incidences, the above cases are just the beginning and one can fathom what will be the consequences once all sixty thousand or more Bhutanese refugees are resettled. So far there is no such report from Bhutanese refugees resettled in other countries but will not be surprising as there is increasing racial feeling in every part of the world.

The Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HUROB) requests the US government to provide security to the refugees and not let them become the victims of miscreants. It also expresses its deep condolence to the bereaved family of the deceased and sympathy to other victims of attacks.

World Refugee Survey Reports Millions of Refugees Spending 10-60 years in a Refugee Camp

In a recently concluded World Refugee Survey by USCRI, millions of refugees have been found to spend from 10 to 60 years -- an entire lifetime -- in a refugee camp. New statistics from the recently released World Refugee Survey show that 8,177,800 refugees are part of populations that have been trapped in limbo for 10 years or more. In some cases children are born, live, and die in a refugee camp. Often, warehoused refugees are confined to shoddy, degrading refugee camps, where they are unable to move freely, work to support their families, or live anything resembling a normal life. The international community, governments, and the media forget these refugees. Palestinians, Tibetans, Eritreans, Filipinos, and Angolans top the list of long-term refugee populations.

For the full report please visit:-

Appeal by Lavinia Limon, President, USCRI

Lavinia Limon
[President, USCRI]

Because of the quick action taken by people like you, 36,000 refugees in the Mtabila refugee camp in Tanzania are no longer in danger of being forcibly returned to Burundi where they feared they would face persecution.

As you may recall, I wrote to you in early June to ask you to help stop the Tanzanian government from closing this camp on June 30 and forcing the remaining refugees to return to Burundi, despite the danger.

Many people responded immediately and spoke out on behalf of these refugees. Subsequently, Tanzania's Home Affairs Ministry has decided to keep the camp open through the end of September and give the refugees the chance to plan their return. Those refugees who can return safely will be able to do so in an orderly manner. Those who cannot will be able to settle in Tanzania.

The Home Affairs Minister has even given assurances that no refugee will be forcibly returned and reaffirmed that his government’s commitment to upholding international laws and standards established to protect refugees.

On behalf of these refugees I want to thank all the USCRI supporters who contacted Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and other international leaders to stop their forced repatriation. People who speak up for refugees around the world often make all the difference.

I am so grateful that I can call upon caring USCRI supporters to act when refugees are in danger.

You can learn more about refugees in Tanzania and other countries.

Please ask your friends to join our Action Network so they can help refugees too.

Poles are the Fall Guys of the Immigration Debate

Denis Sewell in “Poles are the fall guys of the immigration debate” seeks to make an analysis of the impact of migration in England over a period of time. In contrast to the earlier reluctance of the English political class to talk of immigration for fear of being branded racist the taboo no longer exists. The change of attitude has been undoubtedly prompted by the popular pressure which recognized the issue of immigration as one of their primary concerns. The arrival of migrant workers from East Europe has provided a further fillip to the recent engagement with the various dimensions of immigration. However this new attitude of openness is not without its share of ambiguousness. The unilinear perspective with which the politicians and the media seeks to address the issue of migration makes the problem unidimensional and the migrants an undifferentiated whole. Such an approach naturally does not provide solution nor answers. This can be illustrated by the media’s continuous portrayal of the east European as the culprit. The need of the day is for the government to devise a realistic sensitive immigration policy which will successfully address the divergent strands of an essentially complicated problem.

To read the full article please visit:-

Rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils

Priyanca Mathur Velath

Rehabilitation, more often than not, from a human rights issue, largely converts into a political one. The rehabilitation of the internally displaced Sri Lankan Tamils after the end of the recent military offensive against the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam(LTTE) in the South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka has become one such bandwagon that every political/non-political actor wants to jump onto. The Lankan northern districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee and Jaffna are currently where nearly 35 government camps are situated for more than 300,000 civilians, who were fleeing the fighting between the government forces and the defeated LTTE since the past twenty years. The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, pledged on July 10, 2009 that 60 per cent of these IDPs would be resettled by November 2009.

On July 26, 2009, the PMK reportedly appealed to the United Nations to take steps for the proper rehabilitation of the internally displaced Sri Lankan Tamils in the island nation with the PMK President, G K Mani alleging that there were inadequate food, shelter and medical facilities for the displaced Tamils who had been lodged in camps. (The Hindu, 26.07.09)

Just a few days before that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) voiced its opinion on this issue when its senior leader M Venkiah Naidu, urged the Sri Lankan government to accord equal rights to both the Tamils and the Sinhalese and to take immediate steps to ensure that the internally displaced Tamils were resettled in their original place of habitation, lamenting that there were reports of people suffering from lack of basic amenities in the camps they were living in.

What was most notable was the fact this was also the only foreign project that found outlay in the Union budget of India this year. The Indian Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee announced that the Indian Government would give 500 crore for the rehabilitation of the IDPs (Tamils) and for the reconstruction of the northern and eastern areas of the region as “the government was committed to ensuring that the Tamils enjoy their rights and legitimate aspirations within the territorial sovereignty and framework of Sri Lanka’s constitution.” (The Hindu, 07.07.09) Obviously this move was much appreciated by the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) party in the south-Indian state of Tamil Nadu as it appeased the Congress’ largest southern ally, with Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, lauding the Union budget as one that had “placed priority on social justice and thus will be beneficial to all sections of the society.” Though this move was largely welcomed, some opposition MPs from Tamil Nadu were insistent that there should be accountability for the fact that the money was being rightly spent in only rehabilitating the affected Tamils and others wanted to ensure that the money was not misused by the Rajapaksa government to acquire arms and ammunition for enhancing the nation’s military capability.

As it did in Afghanistan, India has decided to play a significant role in nation-building in Sri Lanka to put the country back on its feet after nearly three decades of civil war, and India’s foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon was quick to point out that India had a clear plan for the rehabilitation of the IDPs which had total support of the Sri Lankan leadership. (The Times of India, This is exactly what the
UN has also officially stated that clear and detailed plans and timelines for people to return are crucial to sustain the donor assistance in resettling the 300,000 IDPs in Sri Lanka currently. Rajapaksa has outlined that, “we have a 180-day 180 days we want to settle most of these people..its not a promise, it’s a target.” But as Neil Buhne, the UN country head warned, while speaking to IRIN in Colombo, its not going to be easy to sustain the financing for the relief measures over such a long period of time for so many displaced people. He rightly pointed out, “the first stage in reconciliation is how IDPs are treated. I think the government recognises that, we recognise that, but it is a huge challenge.” (

There are also other equally critical challenges that confront the R&R process of the IDPs in Sri Lanka. The UNHCR reported that on June 9 nearly 2,000 IDPs displaced from the Musalai village in the southwestern Mannar district were ready to return but before that their villages needed to be de-mined and this de-mining was unlikely to happen due to insufficient funding available to mine action organisations. As the World Food Programme (WFP) head in Sri Lanka, Adnan Khan told IRIN, “even after their resettlement, IDPs will continue to require some sort of food assistance as they lack resources and will not be able to resume normal agricultural and income-generating activities like fishing and farming for several months after their return.” ( Countries like the U.S. and Japan have contributed majorly to the financial aid supporting this process. While the U.S. announced USD 8 million for assisting the Tamil displaced persons in the north, Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration of the US State Department was quick to point out that prompt return is the key objective that needs to be kept in mind throughout this process. (The Hindustan Times, 28.07.09)

It’s also important to bear in mind that the process of return occurs in conditions of safety and dignity. There may be many who may not wish to go as their original homes may now be totally destroyed. For the second generations, who have known no life outside these camps, the change may seem overwhelming. Thus the process is in now way going to be a simple one for one of the largest conflict-induced IDP populations in the subcontinent.

Residence Permits for Refugees in India: Ad-Hocism, Confusion and Lack of Clarity within the Government

Sahana Basavapatna

Some refugee groups in India, notably, the Burmese, Afghans and Iranians, can be said to be recognized by the Government as they provide for acquiring of the same on formally being recognized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). For reasons still unkown, and perhaps telling of the Government's ad-hoc approach to refugees, other refugee groups do not possess these permits, such as for example, the Somalis.

This article intends to give an overview of the Residence Permit policy, the changes that have been made in the recent past and in doing so, understand the confusion with the Government circles on this matter and the consequences this has for refugees and the larger constitutional provisions that claim to protect refugees.

Procedure to be followed by a Refugee to Apply for Residence Permit

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (as per information received in response to the RTI application to the Ministry of Home Affairs dated 23 March 2009), the procedure for obtaining residence permits applicable to foreigners is also applicable to refugees recognized by UNHCR. In case of refugees, the procedure of acquiring Residence Permits (which are issued under Rule 6 of the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1992) involves application to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office on the basis of a letter issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs together with submission of identity documents such as Residence Proof, Identity Proof and a Police Clearance Certificate. In the past, no fee was charged to the refugee either during a fresh application for RP or during renewals.

Until December 2008, when this policy is believed to have been implemented, recognized refugees did not have to pay any "visa fee" or "penalty fee" to acquire a fresh Residence Permit. In case of a foreigner, the visa fee depends on the length of stay of the foreigner and the class of visa the individual possesses. The penalty fee is calculated as the difference between the date of entry of the foreigner in India and the date of making the application before the concerned FRRO. Thus, while refugees did not have to pay either the visa or the penalty fee, since December 2008, they would have do so. For a large number of people who have recently been recognized as refugees, this has meant the practical impossibility of holding a valid permit during their stay in India.

The Advantages of Refugees Holding a Residence Permit

The residence permit constitutes recognition of the “refugee” by the government and is a legal document that extends essential protection to the refugees and protects them from harassment. It also enables them to avail of assistance and protection in India under the laws. Given that there is no refugee management policy or law in India, this is a positive step and a recognition of refugees' distinct status in India. Seen from this perspective, the applying of this fee without notification or offering a reasoning has an adverse effect on the refugees' legal status and protection and is also a violation of Constitutional Law as well as International Human Rights Law.

The sudden change in the policy is detrimental to the refugees as they are unable to pay the large sums of money for the Permits to be granted. As a party to the International Human Rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), India is obliged to honour the principle of non-refoulement. In India, this has been translated into the domestic law where in numerous cases the Supreme Court of India has upheld this principle under Article 21 of the Constitution, notably NHRC vs State of Arunachal Pradesh (1996 SCC 742) and Dr. Malavika Karlekar vs. Union of India (criminal) (1992). A comprehensive reading from the above indicates that refugees are a distinct category where the general rule may not apply As persons who seek the protection from the Indian Government, it is not fair to ask refugees to pay for the same.

Ramifications of the Policy on Refugees in Delhi

In this overall scenario, the Government of India's policy of imposing the "visa fee" and "penalty fee" does not help a large number of refugees as most of them do not have the economic means to pay this fee. Further, this decision to implement the fee as part of the legal regime amounts to virtually withdrawing the protection available to them. Further, levying of a “visa fee” and a “penalty fee” on a distinct category of individuals who arrived in India seeking the protection of the Government of India defeats the very purpose of granting them the “protection”.

The imposing of this fee also needs to be seen from the perspective of the undue delay in the Refugee Status Determination by UNHCR in India. In recent times, refugees who approach UNHCR for registration are given an appointment that is approximately 6 months from the date of approaching UNHCR and another year from the date of registration for the interview in the first instance. Thus, in most cases, refugees are forced to wait for nearly one and a half to two years before applying for Residence Permits, which is granted only to a recognized refugee.


Confusion still prevails, with the inability of the bureaucracy to explain clearly the reasons for introducing this policy after years of not imposing a fee on refugees. On the other hand, this could be a simple case of Government ad-hocism and the culture of not finding it necessary to explain its own position.

It however needs to be clear as to the objective of the Government in introducing this policy and undertanding its effectiveness. While this only means that a large number of refugees are unable to get the Permits, it is not clear as to what the Government seeks to achieve. This is clear also from FRRO which seems to just implement the policy, with no clarity as to why this is being done now and why not earlier. While the debate still goes on, on whether it is best to have a legislation in India or a different way in which forced migration may be understood, managed and regulated, what is clear is that such a confusion will not exist were India to adopt and pass a Refugee law.

Social Networks Essential for Wartime Migrants in Afghanistan

Ksenia Glebova

It is better to have a hundred friends than a hundred roubles, claims a popular Russian proverb. In times of war these words sound as true as ever. Afghanistan, a country that has been at war with others and itself for over thirty years now, social networks have gradually acquired a whole new meaning let alone dimension. The war has displaced thousands of Afghans who used their social networks making decisions to escape, return, integrate in exile and reintegrate at home.

In his Social Networks and Migration in Wartime Afghanistan recently published by Palgrave Macmillan Norwegian scholar Kristian Berg Harpviken seeks to show how people’s networks are crucial for their responses to ongoing war. Berg Harpviken addresses wartime migration on his quest to explore the role people’s social networks play under the extreme circumstances of war.

Earlier research suggested that social networks help to maintain or mobilise new physical resources, to provide security and to gather information. Social networks theory has not yet been widely applied in the civil war setting. There has previously only been limited debate on whether social networks disintegrate or strengthen in the face of war. Berg Harpviken tests the network analysis framework in the wartime migration setting drawing on his empirical research in two villages in Afghanistan’s severely war-affected area on the outskirts of the city of Herat. In the first village most people fled to Iran, in the second village majority chose to collaborate with the government.

His network analysis approach is systematic and comprehensive but what makes it stand out is the connection made to other disciplines. In particular Berg Harpviken draws on sociology of economics and organisational sociology and their tools for social network analysis. This comparative method adds a valuable perspective to the study of human responses to war going beyond the traditional debate on the metamorphosis of social networks in times of war. The book’s appendix on researching migration in war is a useful resource for migration scholars.

Three decades of war translate into three decades of wartime migration and a second generation of wartime migrants growing up. In great contrast to numerous macro-level studies of war and peace building in Afghanistan, it is these people who are at the heart of this book that questions their one-sided image as victims of the conflict. Their escape decisions, integration at exile, return decisions and reintegration at ‘home’ were based on and executed with the help of their social networks and resources available through them.

The book is based on Berg Harpviken’s fieldwork during the period of the Taliban's domination of Afghanistan (1996-2001) and since the arrival of US-led coalition forces. Doing fieldwork in Afghanistan is in itself a test of perseverance and Berg Harpviken has spent more time researching Afghan villages during the Taliban regime than most of his fellow scholars. This first-hand experience of the context empowers Berg Harpviken to give agency to his informants. He emphasises the importance of agency and network resources in responding to unpredictable and extreme social environments, of which war is an example par excellence.

Afghan refugees make use of the evolving social network resources to make decisions to leave and to return. Berg Harpviken demonstrates how social networks are formed and how they evolve in the absence of state. Most notably, he succeeds to show on the example of the world’s largest refugee displacement of modern times that during wartime social networks are not only maintained by the people in the network but may be even strengthened in order to facilitate migration and return. More precisely, Berg Harpviken shows that individuals become dependent on a small circle of ties, which partially confirms the assumption that networks contract in wartime. At the same time, armed conflict provides an opportunity to strengthen some of the old ties and build completely new ones.

Berg Harpviken’s study of wartime migration strategies in Afghanistan makes a solid contribution to the field of migration studies and social network analysis. In addition to its thorough empirical evidence and theoretical engagement, Social Networks and Migration in Wartime Afghanistan is also a valuable and timely resource for national and international policy makers who engage in the understanding of this currently failed state. Berg Harpviken’s research paves the way to future scholars of migration and social networking to build on the scholarly understanding of wartime networks – in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Monday, July 06, 2009

IDPs in Pakistan – Largest in the World

Pakistan today is faced by a humanitarian crisis perhaps greater than terrorism, the threat posed by a whopping number of 3.4 million persons, internally displaced by the ongoing military operations against the Taliban on its soil. This number, announced by UNICEF, made this one of the largest internal displacements of a population in the world, along with Rwanda. This issue became securitised when militants were able to pass as IDPs and escape fighting which raised the question of how many innocents had been mistaken for militants and punished.

The exhausted IDPs arrive in IDP camps in places like Peshawar and Mardan and find inadequate accommodation, food and health care, leaving behind their harvest and source of income, realise that the government has no long term R&R plan for them, and can thus be easily tapped by Taliban fighters to form a new generation of militants/radicalised IDPs. The fear is that inadvertently the mass IDP displacement could serve as a cover for militant movement and Southern Punjab which is serving as a hotbed for terrorism, may become a base for militants. This led the Punjab government to decide to not permit IDPs within its territory, only give financial support to the camps in the Frontier, ask IDPs seeking shelter with relatives to be registered and their hosts to complete a surety bond.

But there is also fear that this backlash against IDPs may create ethnic tensions and stoke ethnic clashes that could create more endemic problems for Pakistan than its war against terrorism, and failing to address this humanitarian crisis is a public failure that the Pakistan state cannot afford. Ultimately, the most important thing for Pakistan right now is a national consensus against militancy. When the army operation launched in May, most Pakistanis were in favor of crushing the high-handed Taliban. Within days of the IDP crisis gaining momentum, many began to re-evaluate whether the army crackdown was worth the humanitarian toll it has inflicted. As IDPs in camps battle illness and starvation, Pakistan’s will to fight against militants is in danger of waning.

Source – ‘Estranged from their own land’ – Huma Yusuf –, June 12, 2009

Internal Displacement in Sudan

Numerous conflicts inside Sudan over the last few years, there have been huge number of internal displacements. In fact, an estimated 4.9 million people have been displaced and together they make the world’s largest internally displaced population.

About 2.24 million people out of the 4 million who fled south Sudan are expected to have returned following the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in 2005. But as seen elsewhere, the returnees have faced numerous hindrances upon coming back home. In most cases, the home could never be identified again. Livelihood and basic opportunities have also been scarce. Inter-communal violence has also caused significant new displacement in Southern Sudan, with 187,000 people newly displaced in 2008. Therefore, more than ten per cent of the return initiatives thus far have been unsuccessful.

There are tensions in “three areas” between the north and the south. Fresh conflicts in May 2008 in Abyei led to further displacement of more than 50,000 people and near destruction of the town. At the end of 2008 it was estimated that over 200,000 people remained internally displaced in Blue Nile State, and more than 100,000 in Southern Kordofan. The total number of IDPs in Darfur stands now at a minimum of 2.7 million (January 2009) due to repeated renewal of conflicts, with a fresh input of 317,000 people displaced in 2008. In the first three months of 2009, a further 65,000 people were displaced. There are severe limitations on rural livelihood strategies simultaneously with threats to life and this has resulted in rapid population growths in Darfur’s major towns and IDP camps.

All these have led to more and more people wanting to settle down in Khartoum, which is relatively peaceful. But living conditions for the mobile crowd are far from improving. Khartoum continues to host 1.2 million displaced people from all over Sudan. Social services are very difficult to access and livelihood choices are severely limited.

For more information, please refer:
Sudan: 4.9 million IDPs across Sudan face ongoing turmoil$file/Sudan_Overview_May09.pdf

Will this International Community Actually Help Innocents from Becoming Refugees?

Kusal Perera,
[Sri Lanka]

The international community, the UN Security Council, The Commonwealth Member Countries, the SAARC are all organizations and forums at different levels that could have prevailed on Sri Lanka if they were really serious about innocent people being killed in thousands and thus over the human carnage that most nakedly unfolded, in the bloody conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers. This catastrophe started unfolding in a very savage manner especially from January this year, after Tamil Tigers accepted defeat by leaving Killinochchi and retreating to their acclaimed stronghold, the Mullaitivu. Thus from January 2009 to May 17th, at least 04 months in full was available for these international forces to stop the human carnage that rolled out, killing a minimum of 12,000 civilians and throwing out 217,000 civilians behind barbed wire IDP camps.

Even before that, there were calls going out to the international community, to the EU, to the UN and to most other humanitarian agencies, asking them to intervene in this conflict on the basis there is an imminent humanitarian crisis that needs independent intervention. This call for independent intervention from the outside world went out louder when the GoSL systematically closed all access to international and national aid organizations, humanitarian organizations and to the media in reaching the war affected areas and the people caught in the war. A war behind iron curtains can never be within humanitarian limits and decency.

Yet in a typically bureaucratic manner, all international organizations from the UN Security Council to the EU and the SL Aid Group, including all humanitarian agencies, worked hard to find protocols, international charters and covenants that could lay the blame square on both the GoSL and the Tamil Tigers equally and request for adherence to international law. It is not that they did not know such statements from distant cities would provide the government with time and space to continue with its military offensives how ever ruthless they could be.

This isn't the first time these international organizations and associations have been into this business of allowing armed conflicts to grow savage at the expense of human life. The Rwandan conflict is one classic example of how the UN Security Council and the international community played on their own agenda at the expense of innocent human lives. In less than 100 days, over 01 million Tutsi civilians were hacked, butchered and cut to death in one of the most callous neglects in world diplomacy, while the UN Security Council members were arguing on who is right and who is wrong and whether it is right to intervene and how. They went into long discussions and debates over coffee and tea, for they had all the time in the world in their plush offices. But not those Tutsi men, women and children, the young and the old who were dying at the hands of Hutu power on the roads, in their homes, at workplaces and in hide outs they thought they would be safe.

The US Secretary of State under the Clinton administration, Madam Madeleine Albright writing her autobiography in her retirement says, [quote] As I look back at the records of the meetings held that first week, I am struck by the lack of information about the killing that had begun against unarmed Rwandan civilians, as opposed to the fighting between Hutu and Tutsi militias. Many Western embassies had been evacuated, including our own (US), so official reporting was curtailed. Dallaire (head of the UN Peace keeping force) was making dire reports to the UN headquarters, but the oral summaries provided to the Security Council lacked detail and failed to convey the full dimensions of the disaster. As a result, the Council hoped unrealistically that each new day would bring a cease fire.[unquote] – (Madam Secretary / page 188; emphasis and explanations within brackets added)

That is simply how these big powers play their role as international leaders. After all that massacre, after 01 million innocent lives had been unnecessarily hacked to death, Albright says, [unquote] My deepest regret from years in public service is the failure of the United States and the international community to act sooner to halt those crimes. President Clinton later apologized for our lack of action, as did I. [unquote] – (ibid – p/185; emphasis added)

It's easy for them to tender apologies and lay the chapter of mass killings aside. So is it with all the other conflicts she lists in her memoirs. Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Angola, Liberia, Mozambique, Sudan, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Tajikistan were all extreme cases of conflict that had received priority over Rwanda according to Albright. It was 1993 and 16 years ago that she lists all these conflict ridden countries. Israel and the Gaza, is not there though. That's despite the UN Security Council adopting 131 Resolutions on the Israel – Palestinian conflict, but has never invoked Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Israel is thus given freedom to behave the way it wants. Burma and Aung San Suki wasn't even listed. The Military Junta carries on regardless.

How many has the UN Security Council and the international community solved or at least positively intervened in paving a way out of the conflicts, from this list in Madam Secretary's memoirs ? None for sure. In fact the list is longer and broader now. There is Iraq, Iran and North Korea on a different plateau. Afghanistan has now turned the conflict into an Afghanistan – Pakistan – India conflict. Robert Mugabe continues with his Zimbabwe reeling with armed conflicts while enjoying inflation at over 2,000 per cent. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan is indicted in the ICC while the international community allows Darfur to turn into a playing field for human catastrophe. The list is definitely long and bloody.

The Sri Lankan conflict could not receive from these cumbersome agencies any treatment that would be different to what they have always been doling out. In all these international agencies, from the UN to IMF and World Bank, the US dollar has big interests in how they act. All international agencies have to accede to super power interests and that is no secret. Who are they ? They are all big time arms manufacturers and dealers. The US between the years 2000 – 2007 has been leading the military hardware market with US $ 134.84 billion which was 37% of the market share. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the US, UK, France, Russia, and China together in 2002 shared 88% of the reported sales in conventional arms.

Imagine this planet earth in soothing peace. Imagine no armed conflicts any where, but only dialogue and negotiations in managing conflicts. Can these five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council afford to lose US $ 273.5 billion to their national economies? As former US President Jimmy Carter said during his presidential campaign in 1976, [quote] We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.[unquote]

They would rather say "sorry" again after everything is over. The Sri Lankan government has on its own finished the conflict with a huge human carnage. Now they issue statements, ambiguous in tone but thanking the government of SL for finishing off "terrorism". For they wouldn't lose this tiny arms market immediately and there are other conflicts they moderate on their own agenda, any way. It's ridiculous to expect international big time players including the UN to help stop human tragedies. They wouldn't.

For details on world armament market visit -

Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda (2000) [Duration: 55 minutes]

Suha Priyadarshini Chakravorty

Of the modern day marvels that mark the fulcrum of ‘power equations’ and ‘development’ globally, nuclear power finds itself in the most coveted zenith. It is in this context that mining of Uranium is critical to the unfolding of such ‘power equations’. Uranium was not a useful element when it was initially discovered during the 18th century but it was after the success of the atom bomb during the World War II that it became a key ingredient towards generation of not only cheap electricity but also nuclear power. Among the numerous radioactive elements that contaminate the earth’s surface and that of the atmosphere when mined, uranium is abundantly available in the Jharkhand region and is therefore uncontrollably mined and milled. The region also faces additional problems of radioactive waste management. It is in the wake of this uranium mining in the East Singbhum district of Jharkhand that the psycho-social, political, economic as well as the physical health of the ethnic communities had been suffering in the region for long.

Winner of the Grand Pix of 8th Earth Vision (at the Earth Environment Film Festival), the documentary by Shriprakash, ‘Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda’ remains one such vignette of displacement and dispossession (as a result of uranium mining) that takes one through a journey of the quintessential adivasi land of Jadugoda (originally known as ‘Jaragoda’) in the state of Jharkhand. The name ‘Jadugoda’ according to a version was only a replacement to the former since the natives believed that evil spirits and black magic has now grasped the thick-forested land they once called home, so much so that their land was cursed despite being resourcefully rich.

Set against the backdrop of the land of Jadugoda, (situated in the eastern peninsular area of the Indian sub-continent in the state of Jharkhand) portrayed in a visual essay of forests and rivers and home to adivasis (such as the Santhals, Hoas, Oraons, Mundas) the film bears testimony to the land that has now come to witness one of the deadliest decays of modern-day inventions. Rich in minerals and natural resources, the tribal region continues to suffer state repression and exploitation of both its natural as well the human resources. Displaced from their ancestral land by force and made to live in inhabitable radioactive environment, the adivasis have their voices heard through the film.

The film smoothly delves into the dynamics of radioactive mining and the way it engulfs the entire tribal community. The extent of their exploitation becomes even more visible as the lenses zero in on to Kalipada Murmu, a native who recounts that the community is not even once warned by the UCIL management of the detrimental after effects of uranium mining. Mangal Soren maintains that they are not provided with precautionary devices such as masks or respirators to protect themselves from the harmful radiation while mining as casual workers. He additionally holds, “Only the engineers get the masks and respirators.” The adivasi men, women and children suffer from birth deformities, congenital diseases, hyperkerotosis, skin diseases, tumors, downs syndrome and other abnormalities that are but the result of radiation. It is principally in this region that the number of disabilities out-numbers the national average. Also peculiar to the region is the problem of sterile couples together with the rampant rate of natural abortion due to excessive radiation. The UCIL authorities have an altogether different version on the occurrence of the aforesaid diseases when R.N. Singh, a supervisor says, “It is due to alcoholism and the extreme unhygienic conditions the tribal people live in that they suffer from diseases like cancer.” The film further elucidates another major quandary in Jadugoda, i.e. the management of radioactive waste; the way in which radioactive waste is dumped into the Subarnarekha river at Jadugoda, from even distant mines of Hyderabad and Mysore. As the camera pans on the rainwater overflow at the tailing dam it is seen that as it enters the rice fields, those in turn get washed away with the radioactive substance thereby facilitating radiation to enter the human body through the food chain. Dr. U.C. Mishra’s (Bhaba Atomic Research Centre) remarks, “You can handle uranium by bare hands and nothing will happen to you,” remains a significant prototype of the functioning of the so called scientific research centers in India and that of responsibility of the Indian government.

The film through its occasional rejoinders in the form of sharp tribal songs coupled with crisp dialogues set against the bright contrast of the tribal culture manages to underscore the high voltage drama of the black overtones of the socio-political struggle of the adivasis. The film thus not only reflects personal narratives but also remains phenomenal in articulating the plight of people living in the Jadugoda region; the saga of their ‘landlessness’, ‘alienation’ and ‘exploitation’ in enunciating their vision of belongingness and commitment to the land that has now turned into monochromes of surrealism.