Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Kakuma News Reflecter

The Kakuma News Reflector, Known as KANERE, is a new refugee newsletter develoted to independent reporting on numan rights and encampment in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. 'In exercising a refugee free prese, we speak in respect of human rights and the rule of law in order to create a more open society in refugee camps and to develop a forum for fair public debate on refugee affairs'. For many refugees who feel imprisoned in Kakuma Camp, KANERE represents a hope for change.
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Report on Global Network of Migrants and Remitters

TIGRA has just published a report from the La Liga network's delegation to the GFMD (Global Forum on Migration and Development) held on October 18-31, 2008 in the Philippines. This report reflects the ongoing discussions on the vision of a global network of migrants and remitters, La Liga, and how TIGRA's corporate social responsibility campaign can be translated to the context of Asia.
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NTS- Asia Research Fellowship

The Consortium of Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia (NTS-Asia) invites applications for a 3-month Research Fellowship Programme, which will commence in July 2009. The research fellowship comes with a stipend of US$ 8,000 (all inclusive for the duration of the fellowship). Three positions are available for 2009-2010. The positions are intended for outstanding active researchers working on a wide range of non-traditional security issues (NTS) in Asia. Young scholars are encouraged to apply.

Successful candidates can choose to conduct their research at any of the 14 founding NTS-Asia member institutes located in Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia and South Asia.

NTS-Asia Research Fellows are expected to produce at least one publication at the end of the fellowship period. Interested applicants are invited to send their applications via e-mail by the 13th of April 2009
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Thai Soldiers Force the Illegal Migrants from Bangladesh Back Out to Sea in Boats without Engines

This was another instance of inhuman treatment and securitization of borders in South Asia. Thousands of Burmese and Bangladeshis try to migrate to Thailand in search of work. Around 500 migrants from Bangladesh had reportedly paid Thai agents so that they could enter upon and have a better life in Thailand.

According to their accounts, they headed from Bangladesh to Thailand when their boats were intercepted around December 27, 2008 by Thai naval ships. They were detained with hundreds of other migrants for several days on a deserted Thai island in the Andaman Sea. It was reported that Thai soldiers tied the hands and then put them boats without engines. The only response from Thailand was a proposal to hold a conference to prevent the mass migration — and resulting suffering — of refugees after the Thai navy was accused of brutally mistreating boat people from Bangladesh.

Details of the report can be found on

People on the Run

According to Rajan Hoole, the capture of Kilinochchi in late December and the Mullaitivu ‘command hub’ in late January by government forces marked another milestone in the unending saga of Tamil refugees. From mid-2007, the bulk of the LTTE was confined to the Vanni, fighting in the last block of land under its control. By now, this war, running 30 years, during which the social fabric of the engaged societies has been shredded, has been shown to be futile. The civilians have been subject to Government and LTTE control and these people has been subject of state surveillance on ethnic grounds which show the lack of political will. Rajan Hoole further points out that in the Vanni, those who fled the LTTE were confined to detention centers, officially misnamed as ‘welfare centers’. One aspect confirming the prison status of these camps is the fact that families are not allowed to seek shelter with host families, hitherto a common arrangement for the displaced in Sri Lanka. People who had made arrangements to go abroad before they were displaced – such as young women whose fiancés were waiting for them – were also not allowed to leave. (After some delay, however, university students have been allowed to move out.). The people of the Vanni are now divided into three main groups: those who have escaped to India; those confined to camps south of Vanni by the Government and kept in isolation; and the estimated 2,50,000 within the shrinking LTTE-controlled area, living without proper care and shelter, and regularly subjected to army bombing and shelling. Recently some have also begun escaping north to the Jaffna Peninsula – an open-air prison. He feels that the recent developments should be read as a link between ideology, displacement, and political and military strategy. First is the Sinhalese nationalist extremist viewpoint that the island belongs to the Sinhalese, and is sacred to Buddhism. Second, there is the Tamil nationalist extremism. Although having violently marginalized the opposition among the Tamils, the LTTE was no match for the resources of the Sri Lankan state. An important factor has been the persistent absence of mature political leadership in the Sinhalese south.

Details of the report can be found on run_nw2819.html

Rohingya People from Myanmar at the Thai Shores

It is a quite common incident that Rohingya people from Myanmar appear in boatfuls at the Thai shores. But as the Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said recently, Thailand has no plans of opening camps for these boat people and would continue to uphold its policy of deporting them. The migrants would be given humane treatment, including provision for food and water, but would be subsequently deported as illegal aliens on shore. The Deputy added, “…We cannot afford carrying the burden of taking care of another 200,000-300,000 people…”
All these have come freshly under the limelight following reports of serial abuse of the stateless Muslim minority, the Rohingyas, from Myanmar’s northwest by the Thai military. Indonesia is currently questioning 198 Rohingya refugees who were found floating in a boat off the coast of Aceh for 21 days.

The Thai army has already admitted towing hundreds far out to sea before abandoning them. There are also allegations of their boat engines being sabotaged. Of 1,000 Rohingya given such treatment since early December, 550 are apprehended to have died. There have also been protests from within the Thai people against accepting the Rohingyas into their society. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says, 230,000 Rohingya now live a precarious, stateless existence in Bangladesh, having fled decades of abuse and harassment at the hands of Myanmar's Buddhist military rulers.

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Globalization & Challenges to Building Peace Ed. By Ashok Swain, Ramses Amer & Joakim Öjendal Published by Anthem Press, 2007 ISBN 978-1-84331-287-1

Ishita Dey

This book is a compilation of some of the papers presented at Annual Conference of the Swedish Network of Peace, Conflict and Development Research, sponsored by the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency through its Department for Research Collaboration. The book is set against the backdrop of the changing notions of “war” and “development”. As the editors argue in the introduction and rightly put it that the nature of “war” has become intra state and “development” has shifted to tapping of neo-liberal global order in the most efficient way possible. This shifting pattern of development has led to cooption of strategies that have led to marginalisation of a large number of people which has resulted in intra state conflict. One of the widely suggested copying mechanisms to this effect has been the invention of “repairing”, “reconstructing and reconciliatory” policy approaches (pp 1). Though this approach was propounded by the UN system; its significance and implementation is set against the cold war period. Thus, the very nature of peace building efforts in the context of globalization needs to be revisited because the process of peace building as our experiences of history reflect does not end with disarmament, ceasefire, election monitoring, restoration of democracy, repatriation of refugees or even monitoring conflicts through peacekeeping forces but lies at the success of societal stability and reconstruction. The chapters in this volume through peace projects undertaken in Asia, Africa, Balkans and the Middle East address the challenges of peace projects.

One of the crucial challenges of peace building is its stability and Oliver P Richmond reopens this debate through a detailed examination of genealogy of the ‘problem of peace’ within the liberal peace framework. The liberal peace framework is comprised of four strands: victor’s peace project, constitutional peace project, civil society peace project and institutional peace project. One of the crucial attempts is to develop a peace consensus and often the bottom –up approach versions of peace building, contests the top down approach of the state and other machineries which guides and controls the manufacturing of peace consensus. There are several other graduations of liberal peace and these are reflected in the role of international agencies and states in Iraq, Afhghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo etc. While negotiation seems to be the underlying strategy of liberal peace project, preemptive self-defense is also seen as a measure to resolve conflict and attain peace. Ramses Amser explores the ongoing debate on pre-emptive self-defense and the policies adopted by U.S. specifically in the National Security strategies of 2002 and 2006 which are geared more towards preventive use of force than the use of force in self-defense (pp10). The role of the international community in peace building is revisited as notions of hierarchy, relations of power percolate in situations of conflict where populations are forced to cross borders. In this context Patrick Johansson argues whether refugee repatriation is an essential condition for peace. The role of diasporas in civil wars in their homelands is a much debated one. Ideals of territorial sovereignty often guide certain sections to enrage with extremist activities and certain groups to engage in peace building efforts. Katarina Månsson and Annika Björkdahl explore the role of the UN missions in depth in Chapter 8 and 9 respectively. It is not only important to revisit the treaties, policies and role of international communities in building peace but also to understand the causes of conflicts.

The causes of civil wars in Africa are multi- layered and it requires efforts that are long driven and not short cut. Linnea Bergholm in this study argues that a generalized understanding of the causes of war is insufficient to understand regional conflicts; for eg in Nepal as illustrated in Chapter 13 by JY Rotberg where control of natural resources such as forests and cropland leads to interstate conflicts. The book ends with a fascinating account of the security challenges posed by the opium and other illegal narcotics in the Northeast Asian Region. China remains the vulnerable region in this context.

This book to sum up raises the problematic that underlies “peace” in the context of democracy and globalisation. Is globalisation about creating a new force and new empire of regulation and regulatory mechanisms that will control and guide the international community? Is it resurfacing a new era of colonization through institutional mechanisms of “peace” keeping and restoration efforts? The chapter on Palestinian- Hamas movement deals with the problematic that underlie democracy and democratic peace process. Is democratic peace process another way of co-option and monopolization of global south by global north? How are we to situate ourselves, as our borders become more intra territorial rather than cartographic division between landmass? The ethnic divisions, religious divide and political processes guide the discourses on peace and globalisation and any critical approach to “peacebuilding” need to take into account these factors.

Regulating Citizenship: Politics of ‘Check-In’ and ‘Check-Out’ in Mizoram, India

Anup Shekhar Chakraborty
[Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, St. Joseph’s College (University Department, North Bengal University), North Point, Darjeeling-734104, West Bengal. Email:;;]

The notion of Citizenship in ‘Northeast’ more so in Mizoram, is channelled by the politics of inclusion and exclusion. The partition of the Sub-Continent aggravated the geo-political isolation of the North-East and propelled the mushrooming of ethno-cultural consciousness. The emergence of divergent claims of people over land and its resources; dug deep into the consciousness of people to tease out challenges and assertions. A yearning for definition of a native, immigrant and insider became necessary coupled with a desire to prove original inhabitance. Interestingly in the North East these issues cause friction not only at the macro level i.e. mainland versus heartland but also at the micro level i.e. North East versus North East. Further, though it is simpler to understand the debate in terms of protecting the “Self” from the outsiders, yet the usage of the term “Self” in a tribal context is itself debatable. Here the individual gains his identity through the collective and historical identity of the tribe which has been preserved and transferred through generations. Hence, the notion of “Self” transcends to that of collective good and rights rather than individual benefit.

A bird’s eye view on the ‘Vai’ and the politics of “Regulating Citizenship”

This concept of outsider is seen as prevailing across the North East, albeit under different names. In Mizoram, the term ‘Vai’ is used to denote people from mainland India, who have Aryan features. It evokes mixed feelings of contempt, distrust, mockery and envy. For the Mizos, the term Vai as an out-group has three broad meanings. In one sense, all non-Mizos including the British with reference to the ‘Raj’ were deemed as Vai. In the second sense, all the people living in the plains of India are Vai. In the third sense, the word associates the Burmese living in the plains to be Vai but in contrast to the Indian, the notion is more positive and traditional 1.

The inflow of the ‘Vai’ in present day Mizoram has a strong colonial linkage 2. The gradual yet sure, entry of the ‘Vai’ into the Zo/Mizo economy: provided for a greater degree of interaction between the ‘Vai’ and Zo/Mizo women 3 . The arena of economics, thus became the realm for the activities of Women and ‘Others’, i.e. for all those who were excluded from the realms of spirituality and politics. The Zo/Mizo patriarchy under the impact of Christian traditions began to view economics and the notions of business and that of profit to be both sensuous and materialistic and linked them with the notions of ‘original sin and sexuality’ and everything signified by the word ‘Khawvel’ (worldly) 4.

The post-colonial Zo/Mizo politics propelled by the Politics of the Pan Optics 5 relied heavily on the youth and students’ organizations like the Young Mizo Association (YMA), the Khristian Thalai Pawl (KTP) and also the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) for ‘systemic or structural control’. ‘Vai Ban’ (Bandhs) 6 for instance, is the most often sought mechanism for “Regulating Citizenship” and controlling the flow of the Vai in Mizoram. These ‘Vai Bandhs’ are often preceded by ‘quit Mizoram notices’ to the non-tribals. For instance, in 2004 the YMA served notices to the non-Mizos to quit Mizoram within a month 7. These Bandhs, can stretch from 12 hours to 48 hours or more and the ‘Vai’ are subtly directed to stay in-doors (invisible) and restrain from venturing out-doors (outdoors) for the sake of their own “safety”. Defying the diktat is followed by physical assaults and mob fury; not surprisingly the victims i.e. the petty migrant labourers mostly from Cachar and Bihar are rounded-off by the Police in lock-ups. Evidently, this is a systematic process of making the ‘Vai’ invisible and the Zo/ Mizo as the visible majority.

An interesting occurrence that takes place post-Vai-Bandh, is that women either as individuals or as organizations, along with the Y.M.A, K.T.P and other such organizations visit these lock-ups and offer eggs, bread and tea to those who faced the brunt of mob fury. From a communitarian perspective, this action can be viewed as the perpetrators of violence taking the role of healers. However, apart from the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the North East is considered to be a better home for gender equity than many other States in the country. It is an undeniable fact that the realms of women and men are always clearly demarcated in any society. Stereotypically, the role of the healer is “reserved” for women while men justify violence in the name of protection.

Thus, women are directly not party to the actions of their men and may even disagree with them but, given their operating spaces they often follow the decision of their men. The high moralistic standards applied to women also, make them the best targets to “hurt your enemy where it hurts the most”. Further, women may be entrusted with the responsibility of caring for the captured as a subtle means of evoking their sympathies and creating a more human face. The message conveyed through these contradictory actions demonstrates the willingness of the Mizo’s to let the “Vai” exist within restricted spaces, under the condition of total acceptance of decisions made by the Zo/Mizo community.

The ‘Vai’ over the years have moulded their survival strategies which includes ‘adopting Zo/Mizo names’, ‘converting to Christianity’ and marrying local tribal women’. These survival strategies or politics of camouflaging helps the Vai to bargain their existence in the Zo world. This politics of camouflaging can be adopted for a plethora of reasons from that of personal security to that of private business or for being accepted as a ‘Denizen’. But, the case of the Lepchas in Sikkim has also demonstrated how attempts at being included through marriage have been unsuccessful as even if an outsider marries a Lepcha he or she does not have the right to land ownership.


The strategies adopted by the ‘Vai’ reflect the survival strategies to counter the Politics of Silencings at various levels and the ‘manufacturing of spaces’ in the Post- Colonial politics of Mizoram. The case of the ‘Vai’ reflects the inability to assume the position of Denizens as has been achieved by the later migrants, the Gorkhas; and at the same time reflects the struggle to set oneself free from being constantly ostracized as the ‘Permanent Pariah’ within the spatial politics of Mizoram. An interesting phenomenon that can be observed in the whole process of ‘self-preservation/protection’ or ‘ethnic-cocooning’ is that the inflow, as well as the outflow of migrants/‘Others’ is thoroughly dictated by the sense of perceived or apparent threat as projected by the majoritarian tribes. In other words, the inflow is regulated by constitutional mechanisms of Inner Line Permit (ILP) Regime 8 ; and the outflow is regulated by ‘Vai Bandhs’. Thus, acceptance as citizens is channeled by the underlying politics of ‘Regulated Citizenship’ filtered through a process of “Politics of ‘Check-In’ and ‘Check-Out’”.


1.For detailed reading on the Vai and ‘in-group- out-group’ problem in Mizoram, see B.B Goswami, “out-group from the point of view of In-group: A Study of Mizos”, in Dubey, S.M. (1978). North East India: A Sociological Study. pp 99-110.
2.This however, does not go to suggest that there were no linkages between the ‘Vai’ and the Zo/Mizo worlds prior to British Colonial intervention. An analysis of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo folklores speaks volumes about the initial pre-colonial contacts between the two worlds. For details see, Chakraborty, Anup Shekhar. ‘Manufacturing of Spaces: The ‘Others’ in Zo/Mizo Politics’ South Asian Journal of Socio-Political Studies (SAJOSPS). Vol.9 No.1, July-December, 2008.
3.For details see, Chakraborty, Anup Shekhar. ‘Emergence of Women from ‘Private’ to ‘Public’: A Narrative of Power Politics from Mizoram’ Journal of International Women’s Studies (JIWS), Bridgewater. Vol. No. 9, 3rd May, 2008. Also see, Chakraborty, Anup Shekhar. ‘Mustering Empowerment experiences from Mizoram: A Leap from ‘Private’ to ‘Public’ Living Spaces’ Global South SEPHIS e-magazine. Vol.4 No.4, July, 2008.
4.For details see, Chakraborty, Anup Shekhar. ‘Politics of Silencings: Echoes of the Margins from Mizoram’ Indian Journal of Political Science (IJPS), Meerut, Chaudhury Charan Singh University. Vol. LXVIII, No. 4, Oct.-Dec., 2007.
5.The Mizo society serves as the good example for Bentham’s Panoptic Society, where all persons are fearful of being watched by the church and the moral agencies. The only difference being that in the case of the Mizo society the observer can be seen and sometimes partially invisible.
6.The latest of these ‘Vai Bandhs’ were called by the MZP, the Mizo Students’ Union and the YMA following the killing of a Mizo youth on 18th July, 2007 by suspected Bangladeshi goons at Dholai in Cachar District, Assam. Quit Mizoram notices were issued to the ‘Vais’ and a blanket curfew was imposed on the ‘Vais’ which was lifted only on the 25th of July 2007. The MZP, however, claimed that it had not imposed any curfew, but merely requested non-Mizos to stay indoors for their own safety. It also called a 24 hour bandh at Vairengte the nearest town to Silchar, Cachar or the plains and demanded Rs. 15 lakhs as compensation for the slain youth. (See J.B Lama, The Statesman, 30, July, 2007, ‘The inside and out of Mizoram’s ethnic skirmishes’ for details).
7.Thangliana, The Telegraph, 2004, p=6919; Also see J.B Lama, The Statesman, 30, July, 2007, ‘The inside and out of Mizoram’s ethnic skirmishes’.
8.The Inner Line Permit (ILP) that has been in existence in Mizoram since the colonial days has been used and misused by different groups to victimize the minorities time and again. The ILP has infact become a weapon in the hands of the hegemonic tribes to extort money and exploit the minorities, especially the ‘Vai’ and the Burmese. For detailed reading on the issue of checking Foreigners in Mizoram, see, ‘Burmese Migrants in Mizoram worry threat of deportation’;, ‘Chakma Refugees pushed back from Mizoram’.