Friday, January 28, 2011

[This edition is compiled by Sahana Basavapatna and Ishita Dey]

New Year Greetings to all the Refugee Watch online readers, and contributors. We take this opportunity to thank you for all the contributions towards Refugee Watch Online. We hope that you continue to encourage us in the same manner as you have done in the previous years.

Refugee Watch Online is a forum where we share our concerns on issues related to forced migration. One of the growing concerns in international political discourse on refugees in South Asia in 2010 was the third country resettlement. These were the subject of much debate with respect to Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and durable solutions for those affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Of these two, the Sri Lankan political situation and its ramifications on those directed affected by the conflict has been of more immediate concern for multiple reasons. According to UNHCR's most recent statistics, there are a total of 1,46,098 Sri Lanka refugees in 64 countries. India (73,269), France (20,464), Canada (19,143), Germany (12,248), United Kingdom (8,615), Switzerland (2,836), Malaysia (2,132), Australia (2,070), United States (1,561) and Italy (964) are currently the top 10 countries hosting Sri Lankan refugees. Out of these 1,46,098 Sri Lankan nationals spread over these countries, UNHCR estimates that 7,562 Sri Lankan nationals are currently seeking asylum in 57 countries. The top ten countries hosting Sri Lankan asylum-seekers are: Switzerland, Malaysia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Thailand, US, Netherlands, Japan and Australia. Last year, 34,000 new asylum seekers submitted their claims in Canada. Last year several cases of Sri Lankan boat people being intercepted at high seas hit news headlines which showed the vulnerability of people and raised concerns over the treatment of asylum seekers by countries signatory to 1951 Refugee Convention. In fact, on 9 April 2010, a news item in the BBC quoted Mr. Chris Evans, Immigration Minister of Australia who announced that new arrivals from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka will not be able to apply for asylum and this is in view of the “light of changing circumstances” in those countries. While this created a huge uproar among the international humanitarian groups and civil society organizations, it was also indicative of the grim picture of mistrust and lack of political will to recognize the vulnerability of the displaced in situations of protracted conflict.

Be that as it may, the “Brasilia Declaration on the protection of refugees and stateless persons in the Americas”, may perhaps be considered a silver lining. The declaration was adopted by countries in the Americas in November 2010 in a conference organized to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the United National High Commissioner for Refugees. This is a very significant show of political will and three elements in the declaration deserve special mention:- a) the unrestricted respect countries have agreed to for the principle of non-refoulement, including non-rejection at borders and non-penalization of illegal entry. B) the Declaration supports the continued incorporation of gender, age and diversity considerations into national laws on refugees and IDPs. C) it encourages States to adopt mechanisms to address new situations of displacement not foreseen by the Refugee Convention. In response to UNHCR’s appeal on October 6th for increased international efforts to address the plight of the world’s estimated 12 million stateless people, government officials at the Brasilia meeting also pledged to accede to the two Statelessness Conventions. It is hoped that SAARC countries take a leaf out of effort and make some headway, for instance by discussing the Refugee rights bill, currently with the Inter-parliamentary committee.

Refugee Watch Online raised some of these issues and concerns in the various editions of RefugeeWatchOnline 2010 and intends to do so in 2011. In this edition of Refugee Watch Online, we have two interesting pieces in the section on Views, one by Rahnuma Ahmed explores the reality in the Indo- Bangladesh border and the other by Sahana Basavapatna, who attempts to understand the implications of the unique identity project in India from the perspective of non-citizen residents. This edition also includes excerpts from a detailed report following an orientation workshop in November 2010 on “Care and Protection of Refugees and IDPs”, a collaborative effort of the Calcutta Research Group, Nepal Institute of Peace and UNHCR, Nepal.

Notes for Contributors

RefugeeWatchOnline is a public forum. We invite contributions from refugee rights activists, lawyers, researchers and institutions working on issues on forced displacement to send in their contributions for any of the following sections. We are also open to different forms of creative writings, book notices, audio clips, video- clips and photo-essays on issues related to forced migration in the South Asia and elsewhere.

News: Any news with brief summary or comments of about 60 words. Contributors can also send us conference and scholarship notices as well.

Views: Any original article on refugees, and situations of forced displacement. Word limit: 1500 words.

Reports: Contributors can send us interviews, reports of conferences and workshops. Word Limit: 1000 words)

Please send us your contributions to

Fourth Critical Studies Conference on Development, Logistics, and Governance

[8-10 September,Kolkata,India]

CRG along with collaborators has worked in the past on themes related to autonomy, rights, popular ideas of social justice, and transformations in the mode of governance in the postcolonial era. These themes and lines of inquiry have reached a stage where we need to discuss in a frame of historical sociology the main way/s in which our societies are being transformed by logistical operations in governance, the particular post-colonial nature of this logistical transformation, and the role that various forms of mobility and flows play in shaping logistical governance in post-colonial milieu. It seems to us that the notion of logistics will give this proposed conference on the dynamics of developmental governance the ballast to map out and navigate this landscape of flows, governmental responses, and the massive transportation and communication-centric network emerging in the process. Logistics is here conceived as a grid of responses to certain social challenges that the task of governing a society faces – challenges that can be briefly described as challenges of security, population movements, and territorial flux in the internal organisation of the State. Such a conference calls for an inter-disciplinary approach in a broad historical overview, which can account for the great changes in logistical management of the Indian and other societies.

The conference proposes to be an occasion for exchanges on studies on logistical
governance. We invite panels / papers on related themes such as:
• The logistics of population mobilisation, control, management, and the phenomenon
of transit labour
• Developmental logistics
• Logistics of elections
• The development of border roads
• Disaster Management
• Impact of military administration on civilian governance
• Control regimes of mobile diseases
• The economy of logistics

The last date for sending proposals and abstracts is 31 March 2011, and the last date for receiving papers will be 31 July 2011. Please send proposals or abstracts to CRG will have no fund for travel assistance to participants. However it will provide accommodation for 3 nights. The registration fee for the conference will be Rs. 500 (Five hundred rupees) only.

Human Rights Beyond the Law

[September 16-18, 2011, Jindal Global Law School, NCR of Delhi, India]

The workshop aims to bring together scholars, activists, illustrators, performers, musicians, photographers and filmmakers to excavate archives and imagine repertoires of bodily practices of subaltern protest that both engage and critique the law. Abstracts/ proposals should pertain broadly to the theme of the workshop and its four thematic clusters. Non-English abstracts/ proposals are also welcome as long as it is accompanied by an English translation/ transcreation. If you’d like to discuss your abstract/ proposal before submitting it, please feel to write to any of the organizing committee members (emails below). More details on the workshop are available at

Paper abstracts, proposals to curate exhibitions/ films, and proposals for performances (not exceeding 1000 words) need to be emailed to no later than March 30, 2011. Decisions will be announced by April 30, 2011.

Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC)

ARC is comprised of former members of the Research Unit at the Immigration Advisory Service and provides a country of origin information (COI) research service to support asylum claims and undertakes research, advocacy and training to improve the quality of refugee status determination. As specialist Country of Origin Information (COI) researchers, ARC consultants also undertake strategic research, advocacy and training projects related to the current issues surrounding the production and use of COI within the refugee status determination process.

For details please visit their newly launched website

IDMC Report Indicates the Sri Lankan IDPs and Returnees Remain in Need of Protection and Assistance

The report highlights the increasing physical security of returnees because of the contamination of land by landmines UXO. “In the north, an area of more than 550 square kilometers (km2) was estimated to be still contaminated as of August 2010, and according to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Economic Development, it will take 15 years to clear this area”. The report further shows that Returnee women are more vulnerable to physical security due to absence of private toilet facilities and they are forced to venture into areas still contaminated by landmines. Secondly freedom of movement has been followed arbitrarily across camps. Land and property issues remain a constant obstacle to the sustainable return of IDPs as most of the people have lost documentation papers relating to land ownership in the times of the conflict. This report opens up the constant social tensions that the returnees have to confront and touches upon the areas that need immediate attention.

To read the full report please visit:-$file/SriLanka_Overview_Jan2011.pdf

Petition to the Israeli Government

African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) has launched an online petition in objection to:
§ the denial of the right to work for all asylum seekers holding renewable (2)A(5) visas
§ the opening of a refugee camp in the Negev-Naqab to confine 10,000 asylum seekers in a remote location where they will be held indefinitely and provided with only their basic needs
§ the construction of a security barrier along the Egyptian border which began in early December
§ the amendments to the refugee status determination procedure and the Anti-Infiltration Law

Please login at to sign the online petition

Killing thy Neighbour India and its Border Security Force

Rahnuma Ahmed

Felani's clothes got entangled in the barbed wire when she was crossing the Anantapur border in Kurigram. It was 6 in the morning, Friday, 7th January 2011. Felani was 15; she worked in Delhi and was returning home with her father after ten years to get married. She screamed. The BSF shot her dead. They took away her body.

The fence is made of steel and concrete. Packed with razor wire, double-walled and 8-foot high, it is being built by the Government of India on its border with Bangladesh. When completed, it promises to be larger than the United States-Mexico fence, Israel's apartheid wall with Palestine, and the Berlin wall put together. It has been dubbed the Great Wall of India.

The fence is being constructed, with floodlighting in parts, to secure India's borders against interests hostile to the country and put in place systems that are able to "interdict" these hostile elements. They will include a suitable mix and class of various types of hi-tech electronic surveillance equipment such as night vision devices, handheld thermal imagers, battle field surveillance radars, direction finders, unattended ground sensors, high powered telescopes to act as a "force multiplier" for "effective" border management. According to its rulers, this is "vitally important for national security."

Seventy percent of fencing along the Bangladesh border has been completed. In reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on November 10, 2010, the Indian state minister for Home Affairs said, fencing will be completed by March 2012. One estimate puts the project's cost at ₤600 million.

The colonial boundary division between East Pakistan/Bangladesh and India, notes Willem van Schendel, had little to do with modern concepts of spatial rationality. It was anything but a straight line, snaking "through the countryside in a wacky zigzag pattern" showing no respect for history, cutting through innumerable geographical entities, for example, the ancient capital of Gaur. It was reflective of someone with an "excessively baroque mind" (The Bengal Borderland: Beyond State and Nation in South Asia, 2005)

The fence divides and separates. Villages. Agricultural lands. Markets. Families. Communities. It cuts across mangrove-swamps in the southwest, forests and mountains in the northeast (Delwar Hussain, March 2, 2009). It divides villages. Everyday village-life must now submit to a tangle of bureaucracy as Indian Muslim law clerk, Maznu Rahman Mandal and his wife Ahmeda Khatun, a Bangladeshi, discovered after Ahmeda's father died. To attend the latter's funeral in the same village, Bhira, they would now have to get passports from Delhi, visas from Kolkata (Bidisha Bannerjee, December 20, 2010). It split up Fazlur Rehman's family too, the fence snaked into their Panidhar village homestead, his younger brother who lived right next door, is now in another country (Time, February 5, 2009). Other border residents have had their homes split in two, the kitchen in one country, the bedroom in another.

To access one's field, or markets, residents must now line up at long queues at the BSF border outposts, surrender their identity cards. They must submit to BSF's regimen, which often means disregarding what the crop needs. As Mithoo Sheikh of Murshidabad says, "The BSF does not understand cultivation problems." By the time we get to the field it is noon. Sometimes we get water only at night. But we have to stop working at 4 pm, because they will not let us remain in the field. If we disobey, they beat us, they file false charges. ("Trigger Happy" Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border, Human Rights Watch, December 2010).

This lack of `understanding' percolates to the topmost levels of both border forces. During an official visit to Bangladesh and talks between the BSF and the BDR (Bangladesh Rifles, recently renamed Border Guard Bangladesh) in September 2010, Raman Srivastava, Director General of the BSF, in response to allegations that BSF troopers were killing innocent and unarmed Bangladeshi civilians said: “The deaths have occurred in Indian territory and mostly during night, so how can they be innocent?” Ideas reciprocated by the BDR chief Maj. Gen. Mainul Islam in March 2010, who, while explaining that there was a history of “people and cattle trafficking during darkness” said, “We should not be worried about such incidents [killings]…. We have discussed the matter and will ensure that no innocent people will be killed.”

Abdur Rakib was catching fish in Dohalkhari lake, inside Bangladeshi territory. It was March 13, 2009. A witness saw a BSF soldier standing at the border, talking loudly. "It seemed that he wanted the boy to give him some free fish." Heated argument, verbal abuse followed. "The BSF pointed a gun at the boy. The boy ran and the soldier started to shoot." Two were injured. Rakib was shot in the chest. He died instantly. He was 13.

Smuggling, cattle rustling and human trafficking has increased in the border areas as poor farmers and landless people faced by population increases, poor irrigation, flooding, and continuous river erosion struggle to make ends meet. While both BSF and BGB accuse each other of corruption, the reality, says the recent Human Rights Watch report, is that some officials, border guards, and politicians on both sides are almost certainly involved in smuggling. It quotes a senior BSF official, "There are a lot of people involved, including our chaps. That is why only these farmers, with one or two cows are caught, not groups that ferry large consignments of cattle or drugs."

A culture of impunity prevails, says Kirity Roy, head of Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Masum), a Kolkata-based human rights organisation. We have repeatedly approached the courts, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the National Minorities Commission, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. But none of the cases raised have been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. In some cases, family members appeared before the BSF court of inquiry but we, as the de facto complainant, were never summoned to appear or depose before any inquiry conducted by BSF. No verdicts have been made public.

Neither has BSF provided any details to Bangladeshi authorities of any BSF personnel having been prosecuted for human rights violation. Impunity is legally sanctioned as the BSF is exempt from criminal prosecution unless specific approval is granted by the Indian government. A new bill to prohibit torture is being considered by the Indian Parliament, it includes legal impunity.

On April 22, 2009, when Rabindranath Mandal and his wife were returning to Bangladesh after having illegally gone to India for Rabindranath's treatment, a BSF patrol team from Ghojadanga camp detained them. She was raped. Rabindranath tried to save her, they killed him. The following morning, the BSF jawans left her and her husband's dead body at the Zero Line at Lakkhidari.

The reason for building the fence, said an Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, is the same as the United States' Mexico fence. As Israel's fence on the West Bank. To prevent illegal migration and terrorist infiltration.

But Rizwana Shamshad points out that the hysteria generated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the 1980s and 1990s—Bangladeshi Muslim `infiltration' by the millions constitutes a serious strain on the national economy, it poses a threat to India's stability and security, it represents a challenge to Indian sovereignty, demographic changes will soon lead to Bangladeshi citizens demanding a separate state from India—did not withstand investigation. A study carried out by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai in 1995 revealed that the BJP-Shiv Sena allegations were not only an exaggeration, but a complete fabrication. Fears and insecurities had been deliberately whipped up to consolidate Hindutva ideology; migrants, it seemed, were more preoccupied with struggling to make a living. While the BJP-Shiv Sena had alleged that there were 300,000 illegal Bangladeshi migrants in Mumbai, they were able to detect and deport only 10,000 of them, when in power (1998-2004).

The numbers of Bangladeshi migrants in India vary with each media or official report, further writes Rizwana Shamshad. A BJP National Executive meeting declared the number to be over 15 million (April 1992). Nearly 10 million, said former Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta (May 6, 1997). The group of cabinet ministers (Home, Defence, External Affairs, and Finance) set up by Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee post-Kargil, reported the number as 15 million (2000). The definitions, she adds, are prejudiced: Muslim migrants are described as `infiltrators.' Hindu migrants as `refugees.' Neither is there any mention of the Indian economy having benefited from cheap labour.

The HRW report notes, few killed by the BSF have ever been shown to have been involved in terrorism. In the cases investigated, alleged criminals were armed with nothing but sickles, sticks and knives, implements commonly carried by villagers. Nor do the dead bodies bear out BSF's justification that they had fired in self-defense. Shots in the back indicate that the victims had been shot running away. Shots at close range signal they were probably killed in custody.

BSF kills Indian nationals too. In Indian territory. Basirun Bibi and her 6 month old grandson Ashique in May 2010. Atiur Rahman in March 2010. Shahjahan Gazi in November 2009. Noor Hossain in September 2009. Shyamsundar Mondal in August 2009. Sushanta Mondal in July 2009. Abdus Samad in May 2009. The imposition of informal curfews on both sides of the border at night, reportedly to prevent the accidental shooting of villagers, has not lessened the number of innocent people killed.

Beatings, torture, rape, killings. What could be the reason for such compulsively violent behaviour? According to the HRW report, it could have been caused by previous deployment in the Indo-Pakistan border in Kashmir, by "difficult and tense periods of duty."

However, checkpoints, curfews, hi-tech electronic surveillance equipment, harassment, intimidation, beatings, torture and sniper fire remind me of Gaza. Not surprising, given that once finished, the fence will "all but encircle Bangladesh" (Time, February 5, 2009).

The 1947 colonial border division was reflective of someone with an "excessively baroque mind." Its brutal enforcement through fencing, through the deployment of trigger happy BSF soldiers, speak of a Nazi-state mentality.

Not too far-fetched given Israel and India's "limitless relationship" (Military Ties Unlimited. India and Israel, New Age, January 18, 2010). This includes Israeli training of Indian commandos in urban warfare and counter-insurgency operations (in Kashmir), and proposals for offering the Border Security Forces specialised training. Given Israel's behaviour, which Auschwitz survivor, Hajo Meyer, likens to the Nazis. "I can write up an endless list of similarities between Nazi Germany and Israel".

Israel's inability to learn to live with its neighbours is increasingly turning it into a "pariah state" (British MP). Its "paranoia" has been noted by Israelis themselves (Gideon Levy). That a similar future awaits India is increasingly clear.

This article was first published in New Age, Monday January 10, 2011 To access the article please go to We thank Rahnuma Ahmed for granting us permission to re- publish this article in RWO.

The UID Project in India: Should Non-Citizen Residents be Concerned?

Sahana Basavapatna


This essay attempts to comprehend the potential implications of the Unique Identification project (UID) or “Aadhaar” on non-citizen residents in India, specifically, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and other “illegal” migrants who fall within the grey zones between citizens and non-citizens in India. The Aadhaar project poses a number of questions, including the constitutional right to privacy and issues of surveillance 1, on identity, the costs of the project, and many others. It gives an impression that only welfarist objectives animate the project but given the scale, costs and what it seeks to achieve in reality, it would be naïve to assume that such a system would leave non-citizens untouched especially in the context of the high degree of anxiety over issues of both internal and external national insecurity.

The unique identification number debate, it is argued needs to consider the possible impact it would have on non-citizen residents. They make up a small yet significant cross section of the resident population in India and find themselves in a society and polity that displays unique features in terms of how it regulates the presence and exit of foreigners in its territory. Further, the incoherence of the legal and administrative mechanism regulating asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons in India has the potential to translate the lack of or precarious legal identities in social life of these individuals in ways that may negatively impact them. At the same time, it would be worth thinking aloud whether, on the contrary, the UID project would benefit refugees in the Indian context given that their limited rights are not translated in reality in the existing social, economic and political institutional set up. Questions of identity, surveillance and the citizenship of refugees/stateless/asylum seekers are all the more relevant given the anxieties displayed by the Indian state in relation to them. It is in this specific context of resident non-citizens that this paper intends to comprehend the complexities of this project.

As the mechanism and institutional structures to implement the Unique Identity Project have been put in place only recently and few reports 2 evaluating the pilot projects are available, this paper would arguably run the risk of speculation vis-à-vis the impact it would have on “foreigners”. It would thus be important to note that the points flagged and conclusions arrived at are drawn from personal experience of working with refugees and asylum seekers in Delhi as well as in Mizoram and the existing primary and analytical literature on the Unique Identity project.

The Origins and Salient Features of the UID Project

A pan-India project to “identify” each resident was formally inaugurated in 2009, with the establishment of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as an office attached to the Planning Commission. 3 Headed by Mr Nandan Nilekani, the Chairperson with powers equivalent to that of a Minister of a Cabinet Rank, the UIDAI has a mandate to ensure a “unique” number to every resident in India to facilitate easy access to government schemes, eliminate fraud such as duplication of identities resulting in significant savings to the state. The unique number would include an individual’s demographic and personal information and biometric information – finger prints as well as the scan of the iris. The Unique Identity numbers are proposed to be issued between August 2010 and February 2011 and over the next 5 years, it is expected to reach 600 million residents. 4

The UID “architecture” and the problems in the way the UID is visualized including its objective are well articulated in a recent article by Dr Usha Ramanathan. 5 Some points may be reiterated as they are relevant in the context of refugees and other immigrant whose legal status is precarious. The UID is not mandatory and is “demand driven” – meaning that the way the project is visualized is to lead to a situation where residents would voluntarily opt for the number because of the benefits that would accrue. 6 Considering that it is linked to services and benefits and the fact that the UIDAI has signed numerous Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with bodies, including banks, public sector agencies, private companies and civil society organizations, it is bound to compel an individual to apply for a number.

Though now projected as aiming to ensure better access to services and benefits for the poor by assigning and authenticating identity, the origins of the project can be traced to a series of events in the 1990s and after and debates within the government on the question of national security, terrorism and illegal immigration in India. 7 The Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan is considered to have triggered the idea of the need to ensure that “terrorists” are not allowed to enter the Indian territory. The Kargil Review Committee 8 in its recommendations among others, noted the “gross inadequacies in the nation’s surveillance capability…”.9 It further recommended that “…steps should be taken to issue ID Cards to border villagers in certain vulnerable areas on a priority basis, pending its extension to other or all parts of the State. Such a policy would also be relevant in the North-East, Sikkim and part of West Bengal”. 10 Several committees/bodies were set up in the 1990s 11 with a view to probe issues concerning internal security, border management, etc and evaluate the aspects of national security. The idea of the smart card system is not articulated explicitly anywhere excepting the Recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee but debates in the Lok Sabha between April and December 2001 see a number of questions being asked on smart cards system to be used for various services. 12 In 2006, the national e-governance plan of the Ministry of Information Technology listed the “National Citizens Database” 13 as one of the 27 Mission Mode Projects towards ushering in “era of e-governance” so that it improves “the delivery of public services and simplify the process of accessing them”. 14 Later in 2007, the Working Group on Development Policy in the Planning Commission came up with a report titled “Entitlement Reform for Empowering the Poor: The Integrated Smart Card Report (ISC)” 15 where the idea of the identity card was elaborated.

The National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 (hereafter called the UID Bill) which if passed, would regulate the UIDAI does not mention the government’s national security concerns. Only a passing reference is made in the confidential document published by UIDAI titled ‘Creating a Unique Identity Number for Every Resident in India” 16 where it notes that the inability to identify residents “complicates government efforts to account for residents during emergencies and security threats”.17 The UID Bill118 makes this clear in its Preamble where it notes that the objective is,
“to provide for the establishment of the National Identification Authority of India for the purpose of issuing identification numbers to individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals and manner of authentication of such individuals to facilitate access to benefits and services 19 to such individuals to which they are entitled and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Thus, the overarching character of the Aadhaar project appears to be “welfare”, which on a perfunctory reading may not amount to a red herring, but nevertheless relegates to the background several other crucial concerns. In giving the “welfare” hue to the Unique Identification numbering project, it makes what is clearly a simple, liner assumption of a direct link between an individual’s identity and access to benefits. The rationale is that the lack of identification results in the denial of services to those entitled to it. The document, ‘Creating a Unique Identity Number for Every Resident in India” 20 is relevant, for nowhere else among the UID documentation is this welfare argument explained in more detail. It notes,
“A crucial factor that determines an individual’s well-being in a country is whether their identity is recognized in the eyes of the government. Weak identity limits the power of the country’s residents when it comes to claiming basic political and economic rights. The lack of identity is especially detrimental for the poor and the underprivileged, the people who live in India’s “social, political and economic periphery”. Agencies in both the public and private sector in India usually require a clear proof of identity to provide services. Since the poor often lack such documentation, they face enormous barriers in accessing benefits and subsidies”.21

For a state that makes a very clear distinction between citizens and non-citizens and ensures that the latter are excluded as not entitled to be part of the membership of the political community, the reference to “residents” and their inability to access benefits is intriguing. Further, the link between a person’s identity and her access to benefits due to her is mediated through a variety of factors, including class, caste, gender, religion, race and access to information. Thus, to assert that the root cause of poverty and marginalization is solely an individual’s inability to identify to the satisfaction of the state is to refuse to acknowledge the role played by these factors in marginalizing individuals and creating an impoverished population. Second, identity itself is a fluid concept and cannot be easily frozen in rigid categories.

The Bill includes two other important points, on the question of surveillance, profiling and safeguarding of the information so that there is no misuse. Section 9 of the Bill states that, “The Authority shall not require any individual to give information pertaining to his race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health”. Among the features of the UID, it is noted is that it will not contain intelligence because “loading intelligence into identity numbers makes them susceptible to fraud and theft. The UID will be a random number” 22. Lastly, Section 30 of the Bill ensures security and confidentiality of identity information of individuals. Section 33 makes an exception where it states that information can be disclosed if required by an order of a competent court 23 or in the interests of national security.24

It has been argued that even though the Bill is silent and denies either profiling or centralizing information, “convergence is a predictable and inevitable consequence of the UID project”.25 Dr Ramanathan goes on to show how the UID along with other initiatives such as the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) makes it clear beyond doubt that surveillance is one of the key objectives of the project.26

The “Key that Opens all Doors” 27? What does the UID have in Store for Non-Citizen Residents?

As mentioned in the foregoing section, neither the UID Bill nor other related documents of the Authority make any mention of resident non-citizens, who include asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons or “illegal” migrants or the likely implications the project may have on them given that it makes some strong assertions of the problems it seeks to remedy. It is thus logical to assume that the Bill is an innocent and innocuous piece of legislation with the sole purpose of assigning, verifying and authenticating “identity” with the aim to ensure better access to benefits for the poor. However, going by the history of the identity cards the world over 28, and India’s perennial anxiety over “terrorists” and “infiltrators”, it would be naïve to conclude that the project would exclude from its scope a small yet significant chunk of the population in India, which has continued to be seen as a “national security” concern for the state.

Should then this category of residents be concerned about the UID project? Will they benefit considering that they are easy targets for discrimination and exploitation in India or do the costs to them (in terms of monitoring, surveillance and profiling) outweigh the likely benefits? It would be pertinent to sketch in detail the nature and character of migration, their experiences and the broad framework under which they are regulated before an attempt is made to answer some of these questions.

Refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and other “illegal migrants” form a broad category of residents with fluid identity in India. A large majority of them share some form of ties with India – historical, religious, ethnic, language. The legal basis for their stay is varied. For instance, Nepali nationals are allowed to live, own property and carry out economic activities 29 under the Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950. Refugees and asylum seekers usually have some form of identification 30 and are considered to live legally in India. This category includes nationals from the African continent (Somalis, Sudanese, Congolese, Ethiopians), those from within the South Asian region, including the Burmese, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Tibetans and lastly others from outside of South Asia including the Palestinians, Iranians, and Iraqis. It is impossible to say with accuracy, atleast in case of those who share common ties with those of the North East India for instance, whether they are foreigners or part of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram or Arunachal. Some others such as stateless (for instance the Nepalis of Bhutanese origin who are unable to go back to Bhutan and are not recognized in India) and refugees who do not submit a claim for protection to UNHCR in New Delhi are “illegal foreigners” and if detected, are subject to deportation.

For the purposes of the law however, these are foreigners whose entry, stay and exit is regulated by a collective of legislations and orders passed under the Foreigners Act, 1946, the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, the Passports Act and the Citizenship Act. As these legislations emerged in a specific context of history and therefore do not take into consideration the complexities of immigration in India, they are inadequate in dealing with this category of non-citizens. Be that as it may, experience suggests that this they are dealt with uniformly (as in, treating all of them as foreigners, as opposed to recognizing the differences between a recognized refugee, a stateless person or a migrant), without acknowledging the specificities of their presence.

Most, if not all immigrants falling within this category share some similarities with the local host population, as in case of Bangladeshis, the Burmese, Nepalis, Sri Lankan Tamils and Pakistanis. Although the government has managed to monitor its borders on the western front more successfully and shows visible hostility towards the citizens from Pakistan, migration from across Bangladesh 31 and Burma 32 is relatively easier due to easy permeability of the borders, and informal trade. Bangladeshi nationals in the current political and economic dispensation have also attracted immense hostility. 33

Immigration and immigration management is complex because under the broad framework of the Constitution and the laws applying to foreigners and citizens is a combination of mostly ad-hoc administrative policies, agreements and practices that reflect the nature of migration, the nationality of immigrants, India’s foreign policy and the political relations between the two countries. The powers of the Central government are plenary 34 and because they involve questions of “national security”, policies and regulations may be kept outside the purview of the citizen’s right to information. This information asymmetry has practical and adverse implications for refugees and asylum seekers and generally in understanding the framework within which this specific category of non-citizen residents are managed and regulated.

Furthermore, under the broad policy can be seen a network of institutions at the Central as well as State level that through various practices regulate and monitor the immigrant population in India. Important to name at the central level is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which is overall in charge of immigration and citizenship, the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, a body constituted under MHA which monitors and registers all foreigners entering India, including refugees, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which within a limited mandate in India carries out refugee status determination of individuals other than nationals from Sri Lanka and Tibet, the police and civil society groups. At the state level, similar bodies and authorities are mandated with powers in relation to immigration, citizenship and foreigners.

Ad-hocism in the existing broad immigration policy means that each refugee or immigrant community is dealt with separately in terms of its rights and entitlements. It may not always be detrimental for it offers space for refugees, in certain situations to use this ad-hocism to their advantage. A classic instance is the ease with which Burmese nationals who are recognized refugees in India are able to hold Indian passports.

Thus what is true of one refugee community may not necessarily apply to others. Two examples may be given as an illustration of the ad-hoc nature of the policy. Sri Lankan Tamil nationals and the Tibetans in India are recognized as refugees fleeing persecution and are accorded a legal status. This overt acknowledgment by the government of their status as refugees affords them opportunities for employment, education and health care. In case of the Sri Lankan Tamils, for example, the Government of Tamil Nadu is closely involved in monitoring and assistance. On the other hand, the Somalis and other refugees from the African region receive a minimal support in reality even though they are accorded refugee status by UNHCR. Most Somalis for instance, due to reasons of race, religion, absence of the knowledge of the local language etc are unable to access opportunities, social and economic protection and legal rights that is in theory open to them.

While differences in policy have a bearing on the practices of care, the geographic location of refugees/asylum seekers/stateless persons also assumes an important role and determines the response of various administrative bodies. Thus for instance, recognized Somali refugees living in Delhi and those living in Hyderabad get treated differently. Those in Delhi get a monetary assistance from UNHCR, those in Hyderabad are denied the same. This is due mainly to the inability of UNHCR to monitor refugees in Hyderabad.

The question of identity assumes importance in the context of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons. For instance, the Burmese, especially the Chins, Kachins, Arakanese and the Burmans, are known to seek asylum in India. However, the fact that the Chins, Kachins, and Arakanese are also native of India (the Chins, Kachins and Arakanese were divided during the partition into two separate states of India and Burma) and live in Mizoram, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh makes it difficult to identity with accuracy an Indian from a Burmese. 35 The problems that this may create are not difficult to anticipate like the following example suggests.36 An article in Business World reported how Indian citizens were categorized as foreigners despite holding valid Voters Identity Card issued by the Election Commission of India because they identified Nepali as their mother tongue.

In yet another instance, Chin refugees (who mostly flee from Chin state and Sagaing Division in Burma) are most often indistinguishable from the Mizos in Mizoram. Additionally the informal trade and the political situation in Chin state has lead to a large number of Chins to live and work. This is recognized and allowed with the active knowledge of those in power. Informal conversations with UNHCR and unverified reports from the Burmese community in Delhi also suggest that Mizos have claimed refugee status pretending to be Chins as this community has benefited the most from resettlement initiatives. In responding to the large influx of Chins in Mizoram, a civil society group called the Young Mizo Association recently initiated a project of identifying each Chin in the entire state. Though conceived in earnestness with a view to deport those that engage in “criminal” activities, it has not been possible for such a mapping to succeed. 37

In a last example, the Kachin refugees from Burma, though small in number in comparison to the Chin refugees (approximately 1 per cent of the approximately 8000 Burmese refugees in India 38) share ethnic, religious and cultural similarities from the Kachins who are found to live in Arunachal Pradesh. What is being suggested is that events such as seasonal migration, and factors such as religious and ethnic ties call into question the assertion that identity can be frozen, verified and authenticated thereby resolving either issues of security or access to welfare measures. Likewise, the Afghans, Somalis and other nationalities who arrive in Delhi, Hyderabad or other cities in India are equally subject to fluid identities; some are students, others asylum seekers, and yet others stateless because neither government – the state of which the person is a national or the state in which he seeks asylum – recognizes him as a member of its community.39

The experience of refugees and asylum seekers in urban cities like Delhi in the way they relate to institutions and the society are mixed. There exists a high level of distrust with state institutions such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, the FRRO and the Police. 40 A sense of ineffectiveness with other institutions like the health care system and the educational system is also prevalent. Under the UNHCR policy and the informal understanding between the government and the UNCHR, refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to state support in areas of health care and education. Employment is legally not permitted but a large number of refugees and asylum seekers work in the informal sector. State support means that with the assistance of UNHCR and its Implementing partner agencies, refugees and asylum seekers have avenues for health care and education in state institutions. As several studies suggest, multiple factors such as lack of information, insufficient support structures, and absence of documents are responsible for the extent of success.41

This sketch of the non-citizen resident population brings the question of identity, surveillance and welfare to the centre stage. In a paradoxical situation, the institutional hold over the refugee in the existing scenario is immense but at the same time, there is enough opportunity to get past the institutional barriers. What is intended to be conveyed by the foregoing sketch of the situation of refugees and others is that they inhabit a zone of the excluded with attempts to take on the identity that is convenient to them to ensure that the law does not reach them merely because the political realities does not favour their presence within the territory. The exclusion is built into the political system; a clear instance of which is the absence of a refugee law but covert recognition of some refugee groups. 42 The UID then is a technology that assists in further excluding the already marginalized. The project asserts that it is only in the “identity business” 43 and that the “responsibility of tracking beneficiaries and the governance of service delivery will continue to remain with the respective agencies…”.44


If the basic assumptions made in the UID project is any indication, residents of India are unlikely to benefit from such a project. Access to benefits and schemes and detection and elimination of fraud are worthy goals and are not denied. However, there exists numerous ways in which residents’ identity is verified and sufficient documents that aid in authenticating the same. If the passports and ration cards run the risk of being misused, there is no guarantee, given the scale and the reach of technology in India, that the unique numbering project will be error free.

It is important to reiterate that the assumptions made are an oversimplification of a complex society that witnesses the interplay of caste, class, gender in relating to individuals and the society as a whole. To then assert that technology will play a role in overcoming all these barriers is to valorize technology at the cost of social, economic and political realities.

Earlier in this essay, while pointing out that the importance given to the welfare goal in the project may not be a red herring, I wish to indicate that given the experiences of individuals who find themselves in the margins of the political society, the over emphasis on welfare for the poor and the marginalized does deflect attention from the core issue – i.e., the use of this mechanism to monitor the movements of immigrant in India. Going by the track record of various identity card projects, it is safe to conclude that detection of and control of illegal immigration has been one of the important reasons for opting for such a mechanism.45 It is for the immigrant community, including those who are illegalized and criminalized in law to be aware of the ramifications of such an initiative.


1 See for instance Usha Ramanathan, A Unique Identity Bill, 24 July 2010, Vol XLV, No. 30, Economic and Political Weekly, pp. 10-14, Taha Mehmood, The Fuzzy Logic of National Frontiers or a Frontier Nation: Reflections on the Multi-Purpose National Identity Card Scheme in India, Sarai Reader 2007: Frontiers, pp. 144-158.
2 Surojit Mahalanobis, People count gaining smooth momentum, 23 July 2004, Times of India, (last accessed 21 August 2010), Dipak Mishra, Bihar govt refuses to implement ID-Card Plan, 13 February 2003, Times of India, (last accessed 21 August 2010), Tusha Mittal, Falling between the barcodes, Vol.6, Issue 33, 22 August 2009, Tehelka, (last accessed 23 August 2010)
3 Unique Identification Authority of India, (accessed 5 August 2010)
4 Website of Unique Identification Authority of India, (accessed 5 August 2010).
5 Usha Ramanathan, A Unique Identity Bill, 24 July 2010, Vol XLV, No. 30, Economic and Political Weekly, pp. 10-14, See also an earlier article by Taha Mehmood, The Fuzzy Logic of National Frontiers or a Frontier Nation: Reflections on the Multi-Purpose National Identity Card Scheme in India, Sarai Reader, 2007, Frontiers, pp.144-158.
6 See the Executive Summary of the document titled, Creating a unique identity number for every resident in India, Unique Identification Authority of India”, Working Paper – version 1.1, November 2009,,_Nov_2009 (last accessed 21 August 2010). A confidential document of the UIDAI, this is not available on the website of the UIDAI.
7 See Taha Mehmood, Multi-Purpose National Identity Card, 9 December 2009, South Asia Citizens Wire, (accessed 5 August 2010). This article is a comprehensive summary of the events and debates leading up to the proposal for the Unique Identification numbering project. It traces the political developments from the 1990s that initiated the debate on “national security”, “border management” and related issues of “illegal immigration” to the latest in 2007 where the Planning Commission proposed the idea of an integrated smart cards system in a report titled Entitlement Reform for Empowering the Poor: The Integrated Smart Card, (accessed 21 August 2010)
8 The full report of the Kargil Review Committee was not made available to the public and some news reports also suggest that the Prime Minister (at that time) was also not aware of the full contents of the report. However the Executive Summary is available at the following site, (accessed August 2010)
9 ibid, See the Section on “Intelligence” in the Executive Summary.
10 Ibid. See Section on the Civil Military Liaison in the Executive Summary.
11 Taha Mehmood, Multi-Purpose National Identity Card, 9 December 2009, South Asia Citizens Wire, (accessed 5 August 2010).
12 Ibid. p.7.
13 (last accessed 22 August 2010)
14 See the webpage of the National e-Governance Plan, (last accessed 22 August 2010)
15 “Entitlement Reform for Empowering the Poor: The Integrated Smart Card Report (ISC)”, (last accessed 22 August 2010)
16 Creating a unique identity number for every resident in India, Unique Identification Authority of India”, Working Paper – version 1.1, November 2009,,_Nov_2009 (last accessed 21 August 2010).
17 Ibid. p.10
18 The Bill is available at
19 Emphasis added.
20 Supra note 11
21 Ibid. p.10.
22 Supra note 8, p.7.
23 Section 33(a), UID Bill.
24 Section 33(b) UID Bill.
25 Usha Ramanathan, A Unique Identity Bill, 24 July 2010, Vol XLV, No. 30, Economic and Political Weekly, pp. 10-14, at p.11.
26 ibid.
27 See for instance, Training Module on UIDAI and Aadhaar, Module I, UIDAI, Unique Identification Authority of India, Undated, p.10, (accessed 23 August 2010). In the context of explaining the benefits of Aadhaar for residents, it notes, “The large number of residents who currently don’t have any identity documents and are therefore “excluded” from beneficiary lists can also get an ‘identity’ through the ‘Introducer’ system. AADHAAR number (or the UID) will thus become the ‘key that opens all doors’ – especially for the deprived and marginalized”. (emphasis in original)
28 See for instance, Frequently Asked Questions put up on the website of the Privacy International, (last accessed 20 August 2010), See also Identity Cards Scheme will be axed ‘within 100 days’, 27 May 2010, BBC News, (last accessed 25 August 2010)
29 Article 6 and 7 of the India Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950 are relevant.
Article 6 states, “Each government undertakes, in token of the neighbourly friendship between India and Nepal, to give to the nationals of the other, in its territory, national treatment with regard to participation in industrial and economic development of such territory and to the grant of concessions and contracts relating to such development”.
Article 7 states, “The Governments of India and Nepal agree to grant, on a reciprocal basis, to the nationals of one country in the territories of the other the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, movement and other privileges of a similar nature.” (accessed 23 August 2010)
30 They are required to register with UNHCR in Delhi and hold at least an Under Consideration Certificate, which is made infructuous until the decision on their refugee claim is made final.
31 Among the studies that look in detail at the Bangladeshi migration into India from a non-strategic studies perspective include, Ranabir Samaddar, The Marginal Nation: Transborder Migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal, New Delhi, Sage Publications, 1999.
32 Literature on Burmese migration into India abounds. See for instance, Subir Bhaumik, The Returnees and the Refugees: Migration from Burma, in Ranabir Samaddar (Ed) Refugees and the State: Practices of Asylum and Care in India, 1947-2000, pg. 182-210, Sage Publications, 2003. Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhuri, Burma: Escape to Ordeal, in Banerjee, Ray Chaudhuri and Das, Internal Displacement in South Asia, Sage Publications, 2005. For news reports, see Khonumthung News,, a print media in exile based in Aizawl, Mizoram.
33 See for instance the 175th Report of the Law Commission of India on the Foreigners (Amendment) Bill 2000, (available at The report focused on the “illegal immigration” from “neighbouring countries” but refers almost exclusively to “infiltrators” from Bangladesh.
34 Immigration and citizenship falls under the Union List of the Constitution.
35 It is a different matter that individuals from the “North East” and the Burmese living in India are often called “Nepali”, a derogatory term disliked by both the North Easterners and the Burmese.
36 Jyothi Thapa Mani, Citizenship issues plague Nepali-speaking Indians too, 14 March 2008, Business World, (last accessed 26 August 2010)
37 Sahana Basavapatna, Sanitized Society and Dangerous Interlopers II: Law and the Chins in Mizoram, pp. 31-49 at p. 38, in Anjuman Ara Begum, Chitra Ahanthem and Sahana Basavapatna, Endangered Lives on the Border: Women in the North East, Policies and Practices, No. 33, May 2010, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group.
38 From UNHCR monthly brief for India - numbers
39 Shanta Thiagarajan, Palestinian refugee rendered stateless in India, Times of India, 19 August 2010, (accessed 19 August 2010).
40 See for instance, Battling to Survive: A Study of Burmese Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Delhi, 2010, The Other Media Publications.
41 An example of how ad-hoc the refugee policy in India is, relates to a case of a Burmese refugee who was able to undergo a heart surgery free of cost in a government hospital. The cost of the surgery was around Rs 40,000 which the refugee would not have been able to afford as he had practically no income. Sahana Basavapatna, Access to Health Care for Refugees in Delhi, March 2009, Refugee Watch Online, (accessed 26 August 2010)
42 An example are the Burmese refugees, who on recognition are entitled to the Residence Permits, issued by the FRRO. This under refugee law amount to covert recognition of the Burmese as refugees in India. On the other hand, other refugee groups such as the Somalis or the Iranians for instance are not given Residence Permits. For more on this aspect, see Basavapatna Sahana, (August 2009), Residence Permits for Refugees in India: Ad-hocism, Confusion and lack of clarity within the government, (last accessed 26 August 2010)
43 Creating a unique identity number for every resident in India, Unique Identification Authority of India”, Working Paper – version 1.1, November 2009, p.26,,_Nov_2009 (last accessed 21 August 2010).
44 Ibid.
45 A useful explanation on the Privacy International website is on the main motivation behind the identity card project generally. See (last accessed 20 August 2010).

Care and Protection of Refugees and IDPs in Nepal

Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG) and Nepal Institute of Peace (NIP) in collaboration with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR), Kathmandu organised a three day orientation workshop on “Care and Protection of Refugees and IDPs” in Nepal from 21-23 November 2010 which attended by representatives from refugee groups (primarily Tibetans and Bhutanese), research scholars, advocates, social workers and students who are interested to learn and excel in the field of forced migration studies. The resource persons were practitioners and academics who had immense expertise on the field of forced migration as well as socio-political dynamics of Nepal and the region.

The lectures, roundtable discussions were organised under the following themes:-
•Gender dimensions of Displacement in South Asia
•Conflict and Forced Migration in Nepal
•Forced Migration and Protection Practices for Refugees in Nepal
•Resource Politics, Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Displacement.

The workshop started with the inaugural roundtable discussion on the theme Displaced Voices: Voices from the Camps on 21 November 2010. This was a public event and was attended by noted scholars, activists and university students. Shiva Kumar Dhungana, President, NIP in his inaugural remarks presented a historical background of Refugees and IDPs in Nepal which was followed by self introduction of the participants and guests of the session. The session was moderated by Lok Raj Baral, Professor of Political Science, Executive Chair of National Centre for Contemporary Studies (NCCR). Mr. Nar Bahadur Giri and Mr. Bishnu Magar, both Bhutanese Refugees, shared their experiences of camp life and the protection mechanisms initiated by humanitarian agencies and the Government of Nepal. Paula Banerjee, Senior Researcher, Calcutta Research Group highlighted the gendered experiences of camp life drawing experiences of her work in SriLanka, Nepal and India. She also highlighted the vulnerabilities and risks of women and children in the camps and how women are subject to double marginalization owing to the increasing domestic violence in camps which often goes unnoticed in such conflict situations. She also brought into the discussion the situation of IDP camps in Nepal. Following the three presentations, various other concerns were raised by the participants; primarily durable solutions of refugees problems especially Bhutanese refugees and Tibetan Refugees in Nepal, the issues of displacement, return of IDPs, UN Guiding Principles on IDPs, national IDPs policies, International refugees law, roles and responsibilities of UNHCR to protect refugees.

On 22 November 2010, in the inaugural lecture on “South Asian Experiences on Forced Migration: A feminist view point” Paula Banerjee highlighted the issues of women, children and other dependents, different layers of problem craters in Camp. Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty, noted historian and senior member, Calcutta Research Group chaired this session. This was followed by Amit Sen’s (Protection Officer, UNHCR, Nepal) lecture on “Relevance of National and International Instruments for Protection of Refugees and IDPs with special reference to 1951 Convention and UN Guiding Principles. In this lecture, the legal definitions of refugee, IDPs and the international instruments were examined and discussed. In the next roundtable session on “Practices and Challenges of Refugee Protection”, Diane Goodman (Deputy- Representative, UNHCR, Nepal) in her lucid presentation highlighted certain important and crucial ways of looking at protection mechanisms. She began her presentation by sharing with us the definition of International Protection referring to the series of ICRC conducted workshops. She also went to discuss the actors involved in the protection mechanisms available to refugees. Finally she emphasised on the invisible sections of population who are often left out in discussion on protection. She felt that youth, women and elderly population need special assistance. She concluded her presentation with a need for three kinds of safety mechanisms that any protection mechanism should achieve: physical safety, material safety and legal safety. After this presentation Stephane Jaquemet Hon’ble Representative of UNHCR Nepal engaged in an interactive session with participants where he addressed several concerns and issues relating to various refugee populations in Nepal. He addressed several interesting issues relating settlement and international refugee law, 1951 convention and discussed the status of certain refugee groups namely Bhutanese and Tibetans. Hari Sharma (Director, Social Science BAHA) the moderator of the session ended with a comment that refugee issues are primarily humanitarian issues and it is significant the group sees the inter linkages between humanitarian issues and political issues as both are interdependent on each other. This was followed by a discussion on the assignments that the participants had submitted during the course of the distance education segment. The participants were divided into two groups where they presented a summary of the assignments and they received feedback on their respective presentations.

The day ended with two interesting presentations on status of conflict induced IDPs in Nepal. Subodh Raj Pyakurel, (Human Rights Activists and chairperson of Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC)) highlighted the national policy on IDPs and INSEC’s contribution to protect the IDPs in Nepal. He began his presentation with a brief overview of the armed conflict in Nepal. He then went on to discuss the international framework for the protection of the IDPs and the national framework for the protection of the IDPs (under Interim Constitution 2006, National Policy for Internally Displaced People, 2007). Under National Policy for Internally Displaced People, 2007 the three main aims are: protection of human rights, regarding relief and rehabilitation. INSEC has practical experiences on working with internally displaced persons during conflict situation in Nepal. INSEC had started its working in the field of IDPs since 2005, during the phase of armed conflict itself. Most highlighted work during that phase was the successful returning of the IDPs in Jumla on June 27,2005 for the first time with the support of DFID. Total of 1173 persons were successfully returned to their respective homes from 2005-2006 with the support of various stakeholders namely, DFID, ActionAid, Luthron and Caritas. A project entitled "Advocating for Appropriate and Coordinated IDPs Return" was implemented in 5 districts (Morang, Dhanusha, Baglung, Surkhet and Kailali) in 5 development regions from February – May 2007, where large number of IDPs had been living. Monitoring and research, documentation, networking and coalition building, communication and information sharing were the modalities of the program implementation. The main objectives of the project were to return and reintegrate IDPs in their respective residences and to ease the environment for government to commit for providing short term relief support to the IDPs. INSEC implemented the project named "Assistance of IDP Returnees in Nepal" in 24 districts of Mid and Far-Western development regions from August 2007 to August 2008 with the financial support from USAID and technical support of SC/US and in co-ordination with NRCS. This project was aimed to make the environment favorable to return back the displaced people in their places of origin, INSEC conducted 35 events of district level interactions with the concerned stakeholders to share the findings of assessment as well ass to make then aware on the provisions in the CPA, the Interim Constitution and Policy and Directives on IDPs. Uma Joshi from National Human Rights Commission, Nepal in her report on “Conflict induced IDPs : Return and Reintegration” mentioned causes of forced displacement, human rights issues of IDPs, facts and figure and various aspects of IDPs policy Implications. In her discussion on way forward, she highlights the policy initiaves undertaken by the Nepal Government : Adoption IDP Policy 2063, Formation of local Peace Committees (LPCs), Return & Reintegration Package. She argues that Government has undertaken few initiatives and initiated interventions for addressing displacement problem in Nepal. Besides, various humanitarian agencies(national & international) also have been doing several IDP-focused programs as obligation of non-state actore stated in the UN Guiding Principles. The state initiatives and interventions should largely be complimented and supplemented by humanitarian agencies in coordinated manner. Similarly, some implementation gaps are identified that should be taken seriously by all actors for its mitigation. Effective implementation needs capacity, will power and determination among government agencies those agencies should be enhanced with some mechanisms for the documentation of the information related to the displaced people. Since we are in the post conflict situation, the relief is no longer required because it never helps to establish their rights for the durable solutions. All the activities being undertaken by various agencies focusing for relief should be transformed to right-based activities with the ultimate target of any durable solutions such as Return, integration and resettlement.

On 23 November, 2010, the session began with Sharad Ghimire’s(Martin Chautari) presentation on “Climate change and displacement; Learning from Koshi Flood” where he discussed the brief situation of Kosi flood disaster, displacement, management of relief camps, return and resettlement. His presentation basically pointed the effects of climate change, its effects, possible disasters, response and protection mechanism at the affected regions. This was followed by Roopshree Joshi’s (Lutheran World Foundation) presentation on “Tibetan Settlements in Thangboche and Jawalakhel”. The main objective of this essay is document the lives of people in these settlements, and how their available livelihood options has been responsible for their assimilation and generated employment opportunities for the Nepalese as well. Roopshree in her presentation discussed the life in urban settlements like Jawalakel, Lalitpur and compared it with rural settlement like Thangboche settlement in Rasuwa. Having lived in exile for more than 50 years, the settlements have been following various livelihood measures that are available to them, considering the setting of the settlements and the environment. The handicraft centre at Jawalakhel is a pioneer of carpet weaving business. It brought about the revolution in the sense that when the carpet factory was established, many Tibetans who had the traditional skills could take it forward as livelihood measures in exile and also many Nepalese were employed in the carpet factory. The handicraft centre soon became a flourishing business and the carpet movement spread through out the country not only in the other settlements but also through out the country where people starting being involved in the enterprises. Tibetan carpet factory brought lots of revenue to the state coffers and also generated employment for Nepalese and Tibetans. After her presentation, Dorjee Damdul presented the problems relating livelihood, expectation on durable solutions for Tibetan Refugees. He spoke briefly about the New Arrival Project where UNHCR facilitates their safe transit through Nepal to a third country. He thanked UNHCR for the cooperation they extended towards Tibetan refugees. According to him, there are some areas that needed immediate attention : particularly identity documents, and travel documents. In the roundtable session on “Challenges to current policies on Bhutanese Refugees and Urban Refugees, Nini Gurung(UNHCR Kathmandu) and Shiva Dhungana raised certain crucial questions of protection policies. The workshop concluded with an evaluation session where the participants felt the need to organise such workshops on an annual basis in Nepal.

The valedictory session began with a note by Shiva Dhungana on the proceedings of the workshop after which Ajit Acharya (Nepal Institute of Peace) presented a short report on the course. This was followed by certificate distribution ceremony. 25 participants received certificates and 10 participants from Kathmandu University received letters of participation. Stephane Jacquemet, Hon’ble Representative from UNHCR Nepal where he congratulated Calcutta Research Group’s initiative to collaborate with Nepal Institute of Peace in hosting a workshop which brought representatives from refugee communities and scholars and activists on the same platform. He encouraged the organisers and the participants to take such initiatives in the near future. The workshop concluded with a valedictory address by Ranabir Samaddar (Director, Calcutta Research Group) on “Ethics of Care and Protection of the Displaced”. In his address, he began with a significant question “Why should we care for and protect the victims of forced displacement?” The “we” he went on to argue refers to those who have not had experienced displacement themselves, yet harbour some form of an ethical commitment to the victims of forced displacement. The ethical language is a means of establishing some form of a connection between them and us – between those who are not forcibly displaced and those who are. Ethics in other words cannot but be dialogical. Its language in no way denies agency to the victims. Ethical language therefore is a language of universality that cuts across the given boundaries of the victims’ groups and communities. One can therefore say that while ethical language has to be universal, the phenomenon of forced displacement is not. It is true that the incidence of forced displacement has been alarmingly on the rise – thanks to the forces and processes of globalization. However their number is still considerably smaller than that of the world’s settled population. Much of what the settled population groups do for the displaced population in the framework of various linkages is not to be seen as ethical practice. Ethics is considered essentially about the self, which cares for and holds itself responsible to the other. Caring for the other is regarded as the means to care for the self. He also briefly summarised the arguments in justification of the advocacies for care and protection of the displaced: (i) the rights-based argument (ii) community based arguments and both of them have their own limitations. He urged the audience to re-think the implications of power and its linkages with ethics to understand the way protection policies are framed and implemented. The session concluded with a vote of thanks by Shiva Dhungana.