The Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group popularly known as the Calcutta Research Group (CRG) is a public policy forum by a group of researchers, trade unionists, feminist thinkers and women's rights campaigners, academics, journalists, and lawyers. As a centre of mostly young public activists and socially committed researchers, CRG is now well known for its research, dialogues, and advocacy work in India and in the region of South Asia as a whole. It has carved out a niche for itself in the scholar-activist world for its policy studies on autonomy, human rights, women's dignity, issues of forced displacement and migration, peace and conflict resolution, citizenship, borders and border-conflicts, and other themes relevant to democracy.
The Winter Course on Forced Migration is an outcome of the ongoing and past work by the CRG, and other collaborating groups, institutions, scholars, and human rights and humanitarian activists in the field of refugee studies and more broadly, the studies on displacement, human rights and humanitarian work for the victims of forced displacement. Policy analysis of laws and administrative measures in this field also inform the course. The duration of the course is three months. A two and a half month long distance education programme precedes the fifteen-day Kolkata workshop. For the last nine years, the workshop was held between December 1 and December 15. However, this year the workshop will take place between October 1 and October 15 and the course will be called Annual Orientation Course instead of Annual Winter Course.
The course is supported by the UNHCR, the Government of Finland and the Brookings Institution. The Media segment of the programme is supported by Panos South Asia. An advisory body guides the programme.
The Winter Course is a certificate course. It has already resulted into several follow up initiatives such as short courses, public lectures, follow-up researches, informal networks of activists and placement of participants in crucial posts and responsibilities relevant to this field. The programme demonstrates CRG's reputation as a top class research and training centre. It has also strengthened its links with several universities in South Asia and abroad.
Structure of the Course
Although this course is called in short a course on forced migration, it discusses the root causes for migrations/displacements (both internal and cross-boundary). Issues such as racism, immigration and xenophobia in the context of displacement thus fall within its purview and are discussed in some details. The major thrust area of this course is South Asia though examples from other regions are also brought in for purposes of comparison and analysis. The course, as has already been mentioned, is an outcome of the ongoing and past work by the CRG, and other collaborating groups, institutions, scholars, and human rights and humanitarian activists in the field of refugee studies and studies on displacement and human rights. The course structure is intended to take cognisance of the gendered nature of forced displacement in South Asia. It pays special attention to victim's voices and their responses to national and international policies on rehabilitation and care. The course builds on CRGs ongoing research on forced displacements in the region and hence each year the syllabus adds to its corpus new material grown out of research, deliberation, and experience.
The course includes analyses of mechanisms, both formal and informal, for empowerment of the displaced. It pays particular attention to different forms of vulnerabilities in situations of displacement and looks at the hierarchies that are created by social and political processes even within such situations.
The Ninth Annual Winter Course (2011) had four themes. Each of the themes conceptualized in the form of a module was structured around a workshop, a theme lecture, a lead paper on CRG’s research for discussion in the workshop, some assignments relevant to the workshop theme and rapporteurs’ presentation on the deliberations. Each workshop had two days devoted to it. The resource person under each module was intensely involved in the workshop for the entire period. In place of the earlier module notes, we had concept note under each module to be discussed in the relevant workshop. The workshop identified certain key problems relating to the theme.
The Four Modules
2. Gendered Nature of Camps
3. Environment, Resources, and Displacement
4. Statelessness in South Asia
Besides the research assignments, the course activities included film screenings, a day-long media workshop, field trip to Darjeeling (West Bengal) and interactions with resource persons.
Duration and Activities
The course is divided into
two segments. During the distance education phase of the course compulsory
reading materials as well as additional reading materials are sent to each
distance education based on regular interactions between the course desk and
the participants and faculty forms the platform on which the Kolkata
Workshop is based. During the Ninth Annual Winter Course (2011) CRG
organized two chat sessions under each module, where the participants could
engage in one-to-one conversations with their module tutors. Participants
are expected to submit research report/research article/review of literature
based on any of the sub-themes under any one of the four modules during the
distance education segment. Participants present their research findings at
the workshops held at Kolkata.
The abstracts of the introductory notes to the modules are available on the following link - http://www.mcrg.ac.in/winter.htm
Public Discussions and Events
· Public Lectures
· Roundtable Discussions
· Film Sessions
· Field Visits
Through these events and activities, which are integral parts of the orientation programme, the course has been able to raise quite a few significant issues and themes relating to forced migration in the public agenda. These such as border management policies, shared lives across the borders, immigration and control norms, racism and discrimination in norms and practices of protection, international humanitarian community, various best practices of the states and communities, etc. The public lectures, films, workshops, and roundtable discussions have brought before public attention in particular the issues of:
· Partition and forced displacement in the state of Jammu and Kashmir
· The right to return and the right to resettlement
· Labour and sex trafficking
· Statelessness as a political phenomenon and the non-state persons in South Asia
· Ideology and practices of care and humanitarianism
· Resource politics, internal displacement, and gender
The course has produced a number of research writings, publications, and public discussions on these issues. Moreover, individual experiences of displacement through these public discussions make the programme participatory, and contribute to the strength of the programme in a unique way.
Twenty participants are selected from applications received through public notifications and are drawn from varying backgrounds such as law, social and humanitarian work, human rights work, and academic and research career. Nominations come from several universities and research centres with whom CRG has strong collaboration. Participants come from all the countries of South Asia as well as other regions such as Europe, North America, Australia, and the Israel-Palestine regions. Selected participants with varied backgrounds, nationalities, and experiences bring with them wider perspectives of refugee-hood, rehabilitation and care. Participants are also trained to be come trainers, and co-ordinators of similar orientation programmes.
The faculty is likewise drawn from people with recognised expertise in refugee studies, studies on internal displacement, university teaching and research, legal studies, UN related activities, particularly UNHCR and ICRC work; public policy analysis, journalism, and human rights activism and humanitarian work. Attention is paid to diversity of background and region, and to the requirements of the syllabus. The faculty is also involved in developing on a permanent scale a syllabus, a set of reading material, evaluation, and follow-up activities. The resource persons also help in harmonising the syllabus of this course with the requirements of the participants, and similar syllabi in various universities, workshops, and courses. The faculty has on its roll several famous personalities, frontline activists, and scholars who have volunteered to help the course or have responded to CRG's call to enrich the faculty and the programme.
One of the remarkable aspects of the course is its follow up programmes such as holding short courses in collaboration with willing centres and departments of Universities, public lectures, research assistance, wide range of publications, small research grants to ex-participants to help them to continue their work, and strong collaboration with relevant universities abroad. About fifteen institutions in India and about the same number of institutions (including universities) abroad are CRG's partners in related and follow up activities.
How to Apply
CRG posts the notification for the course in the website. The course is intended for younger academics, refugee activists and others working in the field of human rights and humanitarian assistance for victims of forced displacement. The curriculum deals with themes of nationalism, ethnicity, partition, and partition-refugees, national regimes and the international regime of protection, political issues relating to regional trends in migration in South Asia, internal displacement, the gendered nature of forced migration and protection framework, resource politics, environmental degradation, and several of the issues related to the forced displacement of people. The course will have emphasis on the experiences of displacement, creative writings on refugee life, critical legal and policy analysis, and analysis of relevant notions such as vulnerability, care, risk, protection, return and settlement. The course includes fieldwork and other exercises.
All applications reaching before April 30, 2012 will be considered for this year. Applications reaching after that will be considered for the following year’s programme.
Applicants must have (a) 3 years experience in the work of protection of the victims of forced displacement, or hold post-graduate degree in Social Sciences or Liberal Arts, and (b) proficiency in English. Besides giving all necessary particulars, an application must be accompanied by two appropriate recommendation letters and a 500-1000 word write-up on how the programme is relevant to the applicant's work and may benefit the applicant.
Selected candidates from South Asia will have to pay INR 7000/ US $ 150 each as registration fee (from outside South Asia US $ 1200). CRG will bear accommodation and other course expenses for all participants.
Applications, addressed to the Course Coordinator, can be sent by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) or by post, and must reach the following address by 30 April 2012; - Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, GC-45, First Floor, Sector-III, Salt Lake City, Kolkata - 700106, West Bengal India. For details visit our web site http://www.mcrg.ac.in. Inquiries relating to application procedure and recommendations are welcome.
Some of the Participants in our Past Courses
Participants come from all parts of the world with a variety of backgrounds, though this is primarily a South Asian course. Participants have benefited from the course in several ways. Year after year the participants get an opportunity to meet and converse with the most profound thinkers, activists, and UN functionaries, which serves as a source of inspiration to these outstanding group of young men and women. Here is a glimpse of some participants of the earlier years.
is a Senior Programme Officer at the Refugee and Migratory Movements
Research Unit (RMMRU) in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Some of the Past Members of Faculty and Speakers at Roundtables
Faculty, Mudra Institute of Communication at Ahmedabad (MICA), India.
Partnerships and Collaborating Institutions
The Government of Finland, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, New Delhi, and the Brookings Institution, Washington DC are the sponsors of the programme. With their un-stinted support and goodwill, the programme has become one of the most well known events in South Asia in the field of forced migration studies.
One of the salient features of the course is its public dimension, made possible with the cooperation of several institutions. Apart from the classes and other sessions, the course has public lectures, discussions, and round tables. In Kolkata the collaborating institutions are the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, Calcutta University, the Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University, the Department of History, Presidency College, the Refugee Studies Centre, Jadavpur University, and the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences. Detailed reports on these interactive events are to be found in the Annual Reports of the courses. Another highlight of the course is the field visit by the participants to distant locations of forced displacement a programme made possible only due to the support and assistance of local human rights bodies and government officials. Various agencies contribute to making the educational visit a rewarding experience and a success.
The collaborative nature of the programme is underlined from the beginning by the participatory nature of the programme. Experts belonging to several institutions and bodies such as the Guwahati University, Manab Adhikar Samiti of Assam, Presidency College, Calcutta University, Jadavpur University, Rabindra Bharati University, Jamia Milia Islamia University, Indian Council of Social Science Research (NorthEast Regional Centre), Punjab University, Utkal University, North Eastern Hill University in Shillong, the Naga Mother's Association from Nagaland, members of the State Women's Commission of Tripura, the Malaviya Peace Research Centre of the Benaras Hindu University, Mumbai University - all have contributed to the planning process in one way or another. Besides these institutions, eminent and committed individuals have also contributed their inputs. Ex-participants are also key advisors.
The ex-participants have been unanimous in their view that the course helped them get an overall perspective of the phenomenon of forced migration in South Asia. They appreciate the wide diversity in the background of selected participants as each tries to contribute to the discussions on the basis of his/her own experience. This diversifies the discussions and makes it richer. They also appreciate the human rights thrust and the critical nature of the course. They give various significant suggestions towards improvement and continuity of the course.
Other suggestions also emerge as a result of seeking cooperation. Scripts, documentaries, collective assignments, system of participants working as reporters and producing a collective report on the programme that reflects its participatory nature are some such proposals now put to practice.
Several faculty members come without full or any travel support and offer to contribute their knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the course. Many institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission have supported the course by sending participants. Finally, the cooperation from various quarters in circulating the announcement on the course is critical. CRG remains indebted to all for making the course a success.
Due to the growing popularity of the course the programme has now developed short courses in collaboration with willing centres and departments of Universities in India as follow-up activity. Several universities are already involved in that planning. Besides, the programme has facilitated the development of links with institutions and universities abroad, such as institutions and universities in Finland, Britain, Canada, and France. Besides as reported earlier the CRG has collaborated with a number of institutions to institute public lectures and discussions as part of its follow-up activity. CRG remains grateful to all the organisations that have showed willingness to collaborate on programmes on forced migration.
The Advisory Team
Sanjay Chathurvedi (Punjab University,
A Centre of Excellence
One of the aspects of the winter course programme is that it is being offered by a center of excellence, as the Calcutta Research Group has now come to be recognized on a wide scale in research and training activities on forced migration, democracy, citizenship, justice, gender rights, globalisation and rights, and other related themes. This recognition has come after six years of hard work, path-breaking research by the members of the research group, high standard publications, regularly published research paper series, and innovative research methods, and a strong culture of collective exercise.
All these qualities are reflected in the course, which is therefore thorough, demanding, and highly participatory. The faculty consists of eminent scholars and activists who are in the frontline of forced migration studies. The programme is based on collaborations with several other institutes within the country and in many places outside.
Members of the faculty of the Calcutta Research Group are hence often invited to several forums abroad to take classes, give public lectures, participate and head study groups, contribute articles to reputed journals, participate in their editorial boards, assist local initiatives, and help similar courses develop in other institutions and universities.