Annual Winter Course on Forced Migration
Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group
A Centre of Excellence
Application form see below)
The Annual Winter Course on Forced Migration is held each year in Kolkata by the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG) from 1 December to 15 December.
The Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group popularly known as the Calcutta Research Group (CRG) was public policy forum by a group of researchers, trade unionists, feminist thinkers and women's rights campaigners, academics, journalists, and lawyers. The group soon evolved in to a forum for policy discussion and analysis on issues of democracy, human rights, peace, and justice. 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 the broad 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.
The course intends to serve multiple objectives study, training, capacity building, and pooling of available resources in displacement studies. The programme involves several university departments and personnel, and other institutions working in this area. It draws attention to the benchmark set by national and international human rights and humanitarian laws and principles, and the experiences of the relevant organisations and front-ranking personnel. The course is special because of its emphasis on experiences of forced displacement, creative writings on refugee life, nature of internal displacement, critical legal analysis, and analysis of notions of vulnerability, care, risk, protection, and settlement. Attention on gender concerns is an integral part of the course. It has been recognised as a centre of excellence.
In organising the course CRG is supported firmly by the UNHCR, the Government of Finland and the Brookings Institution. 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.
CRG's other research activities and dialogues programmes are on issues such as autonomy, patterns of social justice, rights and to Globalisation, dynamics of peace processes, and media and human rights. These draw their sustenance from the Winter Course in as much as they strengthen the latter.
Each year CRG publishes and circulates widely a report on the Winter Course. The report is prepared on a collaborative basis. The participants author several parts of the report. We hope that this report will create a wider interest and appreciation by institutions and individuals working in this field in this unique programme. The report carries imprint of CRG's deep knowledge of the Northeast, support from the Northeast, and the importance that this sub-region reflects in studies on forced migration.
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), and issues such as racism, immigration and xenophobia in the context of displacements 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 earlier, 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 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.
For instance, the course gives special attention to increasing racism and xenophobia as reasons of forced displacement in the post 9/11 times. In one year the focus was on internally displaced people. This was in response to the growing number of IDPs in the region due to the Tsunami in Southern India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Sri Lanka, and the earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir in 2005. While discussing the situation of the IDPs preference for certain type of developmental paradigms in South Asia came under scrutiny. Also ethnic conflict and border management policies resulting in huge number of IDPs are discussed in details.
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 course is built around six modules, four of which are compulsory and two others optional. From the two optional modules the participants are expected to select one for their study.
The compulsory modules:
B. Gender dimensions of forced migration, vulnerabilities, and justice
regional, and the national legal regimes of protection,
displacement with special reference to causes, linkages, and
F. Ethics of care and
Besides writing assignments, course activities include seminars, public lectures workshop assignments, group discussions, field visit, creative sessions, review discussions, and face-to-face sessions with resource persons experienced in related areas and with refugee activists working with refugees living in camps. The course also includes film and documentary sessions. Assignments include terms papers, review notes, and creative assignments.
Duration and activities
The course is of three (3) months duration with two and half months of distance education, communication on related issues of displacement studies, tutorials, e-medium based discussions, and completion of course assignments by participants. This distance segment is then followed by fifteen days of direct course work in a winter workshop held in Kolkata each year from 1 to 15 December.
Upon the participants being selected, course material is sent to them in a phased manner Short introductory note on each module is sent to the participants; along with these notes, lists, bibliographies, and other announcements are also sent. Reading material is also sent to the participants in a phased manner. For review assignments and term papers lead-questions and discussion points are sent at regular intervals. Each module has a tutor and a core faculty member, besides other faculty members. On the basis of the modules chosen by them the participants are encouraged to contact the core faculty persons for necessary advice and inputs. Discussion (chat) sessions were organised so that participants can discuss their assignments with module tutors or core faculty members.
Participants are required to prepare an assignment paper each and bring the papers with them for the workshop where the papers are discussed. These papers are first read and commented upon by the module tutors or core faculty members and then made available for wider circulation and discussion on the CRG website. The participants are also given assignments termed as creative assignments so that the period of three months can also be used for training in communication aspects of humanitarian and human rights work, and other practical aspects such as providing the participants with information and documentation skills, preparing local data base, campaign for fund-raising for human rights and humanitarian efforts, and report writing. Creative assignments are mandatory. Its results are varied and rich. Participation in the field visit is also compulsory. A short write-up on fieldwork is handed over to the participants when they arrive in Kolkata.
The course material includes mandatory, optional and supplementary material. The mandatory material includes a number of books, essays and web-based materials. Reading material on optional modules are also sent. Two weeks before the participants arrived in Kolkata they are given workshop themes and encouraged to tale leading roles in at least n one of the workshops.
On optional module(s) the participants have to write a review essay analysing some of the reading material given in that module.
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
Applications are invited for a 15-day orientation course on Forced Migration to be held in Kolkata, India (1-15 December 2007). The short-term winter course, organised each year by the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, will be preceded by a two and a half month long programme of distance education. 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 will deal 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 will include fieldwork and other exercises.
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 an appropriate recommendation letter 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 5000/ each as registration fee (from outside South Asia US $ 400). CRG will bear accommodation and other course expenses for all participants.
Distance Education and the Modules
The two and a half months long distance education is an essential component of the winter course. The course is structured around six modules as has been mentioned before. The participants are given reading material on all six modules. The readings are divided in two sections - essential and supplementary. The course material is sent to the participants in a phased manner. The essential readings are sent during the distance education period, and the supplementary readings are given when the participants come to Kolkata for the direct orientation programme. The essential or core material is in two forms: books, and electronically sent material in form of mail attachments, CD, and web-posted and web-linked material. The supplementary material includes essays and book sections meant strictly for classroom, journals, and relevant web based material. Some of the reading material is provided free of cost and some has to be bought by the participants at heavily subsidised rates.
The distance segment of the orientation course begins from 15 September. By 30 September most participants get the books and the module notes. An introductory note on each module is sent to the participants; along with these notes, lists, bibliographies, and other announcements are also sent. Introductory notes are considered extremely useful by the participants as they discuss the modules at some length. The abstracts of these Introductory notes to the modules are given below:
Module A (Forced migration, racism, immigration and xenophobia)
The first module deals with linkages between the phenomenon of forced migration and those of racism, xenophobia, and immigration. While international law on protection of refugees deals with the condition, status, and the rights of persons who have already escaped the persecution and crossed the border to seek asylum, this module deals with what may be called the “root causes” of the flight. It is in this respect that we have to discuss the phenomena of racism and xenophobia, and the relation of the state controls on immigration with the issue of protection of refugees.
Also it must be borne in mind that whatever be the cause, refugees have a right to care, protection, and settlement, though it is true that if the root causes are not considered seriously, then there is a probability that we shall consider the refugee situation as a banal one, and neglect thereby the question of the rights of the refugees or the duty of the States and the international community to protect the escapees of violence. One example is around the concept of “well-founded fear” which is a test for grant of refugee status.
The “well-founded fear” concept has evolved from a relatively simple inquiry within which the refugee's subjective feelings of "terror" were prominent, to a much more complex and wide-ranging inquiry within which concepts such as the "safe state" have become increasingly the sole determinants of the issue of the well-founded fear. Or take this case, on which a jurist had to comment, “Refugee determination procedure on individual basis and the unequal sharing of burden of care have now produced confused, traumatized, and nervous shelter-seekers who travel rarely with supportive documents, false or no papers, and land in alien systems which are frequently hostile or incredulous" hosts”. In this case involving a Sri Lanka Tamil who had fled persecution allegedly at the hands of the LTTE (R. SSHD ex parte Karunakaran 25 January 2000, unreported), the judge commented, “The civil standard of proof, which treats anything, which probably happened, is part of a pragmatic legal fiction. It has no logical bearing on the assessment of the likelihood of future events or (by parity of reasoning) the quality of past ones... The method of evaluation is itself not one of hard facts. But it requires knowledge not only of applicant's own tale, and what is accepted of it, but a whole range of other factual matters.”
In any case, the dual phenomena of racism and xenophobia have become almost universal phenomena. Xenophobia is a related phenomenon; aggressive attitude towards national differences produces neo-racist differences. It had been so earlier also. Partition of states produces the most concentrated violence, reshaping states reshape minds, and the formation of new states happens amidst mass murders, mass dislocations, and mass displacements. Partition refugees are a special category, for they lose the right to return even a right granted at least nominally to other groups of refugees.
The right to return is a significant issue in this context. Although much debated internationally the right to return is most clearly enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) under its provisions on the right to freedom of movement (Article 12.4) which says that No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country. But this right has often proved to be a chimera at least in South Asia. A historian has shown that perhaps the first group of people, though not refugees, whose right to return was denied by a South Asian state were the Indian emigrants who travelled abroad in the nineteenth century to work as plantation labourers. All through the nationalist period the fate of these labourers in their country of domicile was a rallying point for Indian leaders to portray the dark side of foreign rule. There was constant reiteration that the state was responsible for all the people who were born in India. Yet during the legislative assembly debates in 1944 the leaders came to a consensus that these émigrés rightfully belonged to their country of domicile and not in India. Unlike nationalists during the colonial period, the leaders of the post-colonial State formation project no longer looked forward to the return of the emigrants who were slowly being considered as foreigners. South Asian independence was accompanied by a blood bath. The partition of India and Pakistan resulted in two million deaths and about 15 million people were displaced. Most of the refugees were lucky enough to get domicile and often citizenship in their country of domicile. Yet problem arose over the issue of return. South Asian states passed legislations whereby property of the displaced were confiscated by the State and treated as enemy property. So the home that they wanted to go back to remained only in their own imagination. One often hears the argument that because partition refugees got an alternate citizenship they lost the right to return. In South Asia there are however, other groups of refugees who remain as stateless people; yet they are denied the right to return. We have the instances of two such groups of refugees: the Chakmas (Jumma people) and the Bhutanese. The focus in any discussion on the right to return of citizens expelled has to be thus on the need to move away from the classical theories of sovereignty, democracy, State, and citizenship, and take the exile, the alien, the displaced (both internally and trans-border), and the half-citizen as the central figure of the politics in South Asia, the figure who is with us like the eternally accompanying shadow, so normalised that we forget its existence which we have taken for granted. In this physical milieu of expulsion, de-enfranchisement, and nationalisation, the right to return is at once the most crucial question and the most hallucinatory claim.
The last point that this module discusses is the relation between refugee flow immigration flow, and the way these flows mix to form massive and mixed flows of population groups in today's world.
Module A is the beginning. But the module will offer enough glimpses of the problems relating to the issue of refugee protection today, so that the following modules in this course can be appreciated better. And, one must not forget that in all related instances and phenomena gender stays as the most deeply inscribed category of discrimination and difference, if discrimination and difference are taken as the key opening words of the course. A good beginning means an anticipation of the problems that will arise at the end.
Module B (Gender dimensions of forced migration, vulnerabilities, and justice)
Over one percent of the total world population today consists of refugees. More than eighty percent of that number is made up of women and their dependent children. An overwhelming majority of these women come from the developing world. South Asia is the fourth largest refugee-producing region in the world. Again, a majority of these refugees are made up of women. The sheer number of women among the refugee population portrays the gendered nature of the issue. The nation building projects in South Asia has led to the creation of a homogenised identity of citizenship. State machineries seek to create a “unified” and “national” citizenry that accepts the central role of the existing elite. This is done through privileging majoritarian, male and monolithic cultural values that deny the space to difference. Such a denial has often led to the segregation of minorities, on the basis of caste, religion and gender from the collective “we”. One way of marginalising women from body politic is done by targeting them and displacing them in times of state verses community conflicts. As a refugee a woman loses her individuality, subjectivity, citizenship and her ability to make political choices. As political non-subjects refugee women emerge as the symbol of difference between citizens and its other the refugees and the non-citizens. By taking some select examples from South Asia in this module we will address such theoretical assumptions. Here the category of refugee women will include women who have crossed international borders and those who are internally displaced and are potential refugees.
The partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 witnessed probably the largest refugee movement in modern history. About 8 million Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan to resettle in India while about 6-7 million Muslims went to Pakistan. Such transfer of population was accompanied by horrific violence. Some 50,000 Muslim women in India and 33,000 non-Muslim women in Pakistan were abducted, abandoned or separated from their families. Women's experiences of migration, abduction and destitution during partition and State's responses to it is a pointer to the relationship between women's position as marginal participants in state politics and gender subordination as perpetrated by the State. In this context the experiences of abducted women and their often forcible repatriation by the State assumes enormous importance today when thousands of South Asian women are either refugees, migrants or stateless within the subcontinent. Abducted women were not considered as legal entities with political and constitutional rights. All choices were denied to them and while the state patronised them verbally by portraying their “need” for protection it also infantilised them by giving decision making power to their guardians who were defined by the male pronoun “he”. Even today the refugee women do not represent themselves. Officials represent them. For the abducted women it was their sexuality that threatened their security and the honour of the nation.
Refugee women from other parts of South Asia reflect trauma faced by women belonging to communities considered as disorderly by the state.During multiple displacements women who have never coped with such situations before are often at a loss for necessary papers. When separated from male members of their family they are vulnerable to sexual abuse. The camps are not conducive for the personal safety of women, as they enjoy no privacy. But what is more worrying is that without any institutional support women become particularly vulnerable to human traffickers. These people aided by network of criminals force women into prostitution. Millions of rupees change hands in this trade and more lives get wrecked every day. Many displaced women who are unable to cross international border swell the ranks of the internally displaced. Even in IDP camps women are responsible for holding together fragmented families. Today roughly one-third of all households in Sri Lanka are headed by women and the numbers increase many fold in the camps for internally displaced. Although 89 percent women in Sri Lanka are literate, due to two decades of armed conflict women from North and East have lower levels of education with one in every four being illiterate. A report based on a research carried out at Mannar district portray that among 190,000 IDPs women often find it impossible to generate enough income for buying food for the whole family. In Illupakkadavai, all 36 heads of female-headed households stated that they rely on dry rations for approximately 90 percent for their nutritional needs and that the children of women headed households are most vulnerable to exploitation. In Sri Lanka suicide rates for women have doubled in the last two decades.
None of the South Asian states are signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol. As India is the largest South Asian state it should be interesting to see how women refugees are dealt with here. In India Articles 14, 21 and 25 under Fundamental Rights guarantees the Right to Equality, Right to Life and Liberty and Freedom of Religion of citizens and aliens alike. Like the other South Asian states India had ratified the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1993. Although there is no incorporation of international treaty obligations in the Municipal laws still rights accruing to the refugees in India under Articles 14, 21 and 25 can be enforced in the Supreme Court under Article 32 and in the High Court under Article 226. The other guiding principles for refugees are the executive orders that have been passed under the Foreigners Act of 1946 and the Passport Act of 1967. The National Human Rights Commission has also taken up questions regarding the protection of refugees. It approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution and stopped the Expulsion of Chakma refugees from Northeast India. Yet all these orders are adhoc in nature and the legal position remains nebulous. This is true not just of India but all of South Asia.
The overwhelming presence of women among displaced populations is not an accident of history. It is a way by which states have made women political non-subjects. By making women permanent refugee, living a savage life in camps, it is easy to homogenise them, ignore their identity, individuality and subjectivity. By reducing refugee women to the status of mere victims in our own narratives we accept the homogenisation of women and their depoliticisation. We legitimise a space where states can make certain groups of people political non-subjects. In this module we intend to discuss the causes of such depoliticisation that often results in displacements. We will also discuss the situation of displaced women in South Asia and consider policy alternatives that might help in their rehabilitation and care.
Module C (International,
regional, and the national legal regimes of protection,
Module C deals with the international and national legal regimes of protection of the victims of forced displacement and their right.
Refugee Law is a relatively new branch of International Law. The first major step towards developing an international regime of protection was the 1951 Convention that was later modified by the 1967 Protocol. From then on the 1951 convention has formed the core of all Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law for the protection of refugees. The 1951 Convention defines a refugee as a person, who owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
However since its inception there have been many objections to the provisions of the 1951 convention. It is said that the Convention mandates protection for those whose civil and political rights are violated, without protecting persons whose socio-economic rights are at risk. Also it has been criticised on the grounds of its Euro centrism, and insensitivity towards the internecine racial, ethnic and religious conflicts in third world, which has resulted in the creation of refugees in large numbers. The provisions of the convention have served well for the protection of refugees during the Cold War times but have failed to do so after that. Today the first world often attempts at dealing with the refugee problems 'at source'. This has led to the international interference in the internal matters of a sovereign nation creating further problems for states and for the displaced. This has been witnessed very recently in the Darfur region of Sudan and in past in former Yugoslavia, Somalia, and other African countries.
Another failure of the Convention has been the inability to recognise the special needs of women, children, and aged people within the sections of refugees, though this has been addressed to some extent in the provisions of CEDAW convention. In 1985, the UNHCR Executive Committee adopted Conclusion No. 39 that recognised that refugee women and girls formed a majority among the world refugee population. The Conclusion also recognised that states were free to consider women facing inhuman treatment as belonging to a particular social group within the 1951 convention. In October 1993 the UNHCR adopted Conclusion No. 73 that stated that all those who have suffered sexual violence should be treated with particular sensitivity. However, there is little in UNHCR guidelines that can make women victims of sexual violence as special claimants for refugee protection.
Today provisions of the 1951 Convention seems dated and in need for further revision due to increased complexities in the process of refugee generation, protection and also due to advances in the field of refugee studies. The increased focus on refugee studies has led to broadening of definitions of 'refugee', 'protection', 'rights', 'justice' etc. As a result of all these reasons the 1951 Convention has not been ratified by many nations of the world. Many regions have developed its own regimes for protection of people facing forced displacement. The OAU Convention expanded the definition of refugee contained in the 1951 Convention. The OAU Convention defines the term “refugee” to include persons fleeing their country of origin due to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination, or events seriously disturbing public order in either a part or the whole of the country of origin or nationality. This implies that “well-founded fear” is a subjective category and anyone facing civil and political disturbances and war need not prove their well-founded fear for life. The Cartagena Declaration recommends a definition similar to that contained in the OAU Convention. In so far as Asia is concerned mention may be made of the Asian African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC) in 1966. But this has not had the impact of either the OAU Convention or the Cartagena Declaration. South Asia has not been able to develop a legal regime for refugees or IDPs.
None of the South Asian states are a signatory to the 1951 Convention or the 67 Protocol. India has also stayed away from these mechanisms, citing certain biases in the provisions of the convention. However, it has developed its own provisions to deal with the problems of refugees on a case-by-case basis in absence of a consistent national policy. This has its own problems, for example India has provided all possible help to Tibetan refugee due to its own political necessities but has not done so with the Bangladeshi and Bhutanese refugees. The provisions of Indian state has also not progressed with the evolution of feminist critic of the protection regimes which needs attention and creation of a consistent policy accommodating the faults in current practices.Not everyone who applies for refugee status can get protection. In 1951 Convention there are a list of “exclusion clauses” containing categories of persons who do not deserve international protection.
This module focuses on the various aspects of refugee protection at an international level in general and on South Asian level in particular, while Module D discusses in details the legal principles of protection of IDPs.
Module D (Internal
displacement with special reference to causes, linkages, and
The eviction of indigenous people from their land is a recurrent theme in South Asia. Be it Ranigaon, Golai, Motakeda, Somthana, Ahmedabad, Bandarban, or Trincomalee, thousands of families are being evicted from their homes either in the name of conflict or in the name of modernization. They are being forced to stay in the open, in pouring rain with a number of them suffering from malnutrition and starvation and they are fearful for their lives at most times. The last two decades have witnessed an enormous increase in the number of internally displaced people in South Asia. Their situation is particularly vulnerable because unlike the refugees they are unable to move away from the site of conflict and have to remain within a state in which they were displaced in the first place. These unfortunate people who have been displaced once are often displaced multiple times by the hands of the powers that be. Yet as displaced they do not have the capacity to cross international borders but seek rehabilitation from the powers that are responsible for their displacement in the first place.
The situation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) seems particularly vulnerable when one considers that there are hardly any legal mechanism that guides their rehabilitation and care in South Asia. Since the early 1990s the need for a separate legal mechanism for IDPs in South Asia has increasingly been felt. This is not only to compile new laws but also to bring together the existing laws within a single legal instrument and to plug the loopholes detected in them over the years. Only recently the international community has developed such a mechanism that is popularly known as the UN Guiding Principles on internal displacement. This has given us a framework within which rehabilitation and care of internally displaced people in South Asia can be organised. Keeping that in mind it becomes imperative for scholars working on issues of forced migration in South Asia to consider whether South Asian states have taken the Guiding Principles into account while organising programmes for rehabilitation and care for the internally displaced persons.
The Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons set out the rights of internally displaced persons relevant to the needs they encounter in different stages of displacement. The Guiding Principles provide a handy schematic of how to design a national policy or law on internal displacement that is focused on the individuals concerned and responsive to the requirements of international law. Similarly, governments (and particularly national human rights institutions where they exist), advocates, and displaced persons can use the Guiding Principles as a means to measure the compliance of existing laws and policies with international standards. Finally, their simplicity allows the Guiding Principles to effectively inform the internally displaced themselves of their rights. The Guiding Principles are thus part of a growing number of “soft law” instruments that have come to characterize norm-making in the human rights field as well as other areas of international law, in particular environmental, labor and finance.
The short notes to the questions presented below indicate the discussions that this module aims to discuss.
What Types of Displacement are prohibited by the Guiding Principles?
Principle 6 affirms that “Every human being shall have the right to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home or place of habitual residence.” Support for this proposition can be found in humanitarian law and also in the right to movement, guaranteed by a number of human rights instruments, which can be reasonably expected to have as its corollary the “right not to move.” Where displacement is to occur outside the context of armed conflict, Principle 7 provides a list of procedural protections that must be guaranteed, including decision- making and enforcement by appropriate authorities, involvement of and consultation with those to be affected and the provision of an effective remedy for those wishing to challenge their displacement. These provisions are, of course, of particular interest to those facing displacement for development projects. Moreover, in either context, “all measures” must be taken to minimize the effects and duration of the displacement and the responsible authorities are required to ensure “to the greatest practicable extent” that the basic needs of those displaced (e.g., shelter, safety, nutrition, health, and hygiene) are met. It should also be noted that Principal 9 articulates a “special obligation” to protection against displacement of a number of groups whose special attachment to territory has been recognized in international law, including indigenous persons, minorities, peasants, and pastoralists.
What Rights do Persons have once displaced?
Displaced persons enjoy the full range of rights enjoyed by civilians in humanitarian law and by every human being in human rights law. These include the rights to life, integrity and dignity of the person (e.g., freedom from rape and torture), non-discrimination, recognition as a person before the law, freedom from arbitrary detention, liberty of movement, respect for family life, an adequate standard of living (including to access to basic humanitarian needs), medical care, access to legal remedies, possession of property, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, participation in public life, and education, as set out in Principles 10-23. In several instances, the Guiding Principles specify how generally expressed rights apply in situations of displacement. These should be of particular interest to those designing and assessing domestic policies on internal displacement. For example, Principle 12
Provides that, to give effect to the right of liberty from arbitrary detention, internally displaced persons “shall not be interned in or confined in a camp” absent “exceptional circumstances” and that they shall not be subject to discriminatory arrest “as a result of their displacement.” Likewise Principle 20 provides that the right to “recognition everywhere as a person before the law” should be given effect for displaced persons by authorities facilitating the issuance of “all documents necessary for the enjoyment and exercise of their legal rights, such as passports, personal identification documents, birth certificates and marriage certificates.” The Guiding Principles provide for special consideration of the needs of women and children (including “positive discrimination” or affirmative activities on behalf of governments to model assistance and protection to their particular needs, consultation and involvement in decisions regarding their displacement and return or resettlement, protection against recruitment of minors and free and compulsory education), as well as for other especially vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and disabled.
What Help Should Displaced Persons Expect with Return, Reintegration and Resettlement?
The Guiding Principles provide that competent authorities have “the primary duty and responsibility” to assist displaced persons by providing the means as well as by establishing conditions for return to their places of origin, or for resettlement in another part of the country (Principle 28). Any return or resettlement must be voluntary and carried out in conditions of safety and dignity for those involved. As a corollary to the right to free movement, therefore, displaced persons have the right to return to their homes. Although the right to return or resettle is not expressly stated in any particular human rights instrument, this interpretation of the right of free movement is strongly supported by resolutions of the Security Council, decisions of treaty monitoring bodies, and other sources of authority. However, though the displaced have the right to return, Principle 28 carefully specifies that they must not be forced to do so, particularly (but not only) when their safety would be imperiled. The issue of the voluntariness of return or resettlement is recurrent in protracted displacement situations around the world. In many places, governments and insurgent groups have ceded to the temptation to use the return or resettlement of displaced persons as a political tool.
Are there any special provisions for women?
In the guiding principles a concerted attempt was made to prioritise gender issues. For example, while discussing groups that needed special attention in Principle 4 it was stated that expectant mothers, mothers with young children and female heads of households, among others, are people who may need special attention. In Principle 7 it was stated that when displacement occurred due to reasons other than armed conflict authorities should involve women who are affected, in the planning and management of their relocation. Principle 9 upheld that IDPs should be protected in particular against “Rape, mutilation, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and other outrages upon personal dignity, such as acts of gender-specific violence, forced prostitution and any other form of indecent assault.” Special protection was also sought against sexual exploitation. Principle 18 stated that special efforts should be made to include women in planning and distribution of supplies. Principle19 stated that attention should be given to the health needs of women and Principle 20 stated that both men and women had equal rights to obtain government documents in their own names. Apart from the Guiding Principles there are other international mechanisms that displaced women can access. They include the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (hereafter CEDAW) and the 1999 Optional Protocol sets out specific steps for states to become proactive in their efforts to eliminate discrimination against displaced women.
Are the Guiding Principles legally binding?
Although the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement is not a legally binding treaty it is formed of principles that are based on established legal mechanisms for aiding the human rights of the displaced people. Many of these Principles may gradually attain the status of customary international law. But as Francis Deng reminds us, “for the time being they serve as a morally binding statement.” A statement of this nature that promises to be 'morally binding' on a wide spectrum of primarily national governments and secondarily, other relevant international and non-governmental agencies must cut across the well-known divisions of the prevailing ethical and moral systems and elaborate itself in a way that it does not remain captive to any particular modality of moral reasoning. Plurality of such systems and modalities is helpful in building the much-needed 'moral consensus' around these principles.
Module E (Resource politics, environmental degradation, violence, and displacement)
Annually, the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the globe are affected by forced displacement due to ethnic conflicts, infrastructure projects like dams, mines, industries, power plants, and roads and then due to natural disasters such as floods, river erosion etc. The forced migration is due to many reasons but question of control over natural resource has been at the centre of these reasons. Even in displacements induced by conflicts, it is the question of resources that lies at the heart of most of these conflicts. The situation in South Asia is no exception. This module is thus designed to give a comprehensive understanding of the following issues:
This module would thus deal with these questions through specific case studies from North East India and other parts of India and South Asia taking up issues of ethnic conflict, and developmental displacement - all due to resource conflicts and environmental degradation. The module will discuss the experiences of the Northeast in particular. The resource conflict and forced migration are closely inter-linked. In India, this operates at various levels and regions and is reflected in the developmental imbalances across sections of society regionally and nationally. The worst manifestation of this has been again in the North East. The land use pattern in North East India has also contributed towards the ensuing conflict between various communities and environmental destruction. Prior to independence if British encouraged plantation agriculture and brought many labourers from outside now it is the time of modern day developmental agencies who have been trying to change the agricultural patterns of the indigenous people and trying to encourage coffee plantation and other crops which are not viable in this region. The plantation labourers now termed, as 'outsiders' has now become target of local conflicts. The crisis in plantation economies has also rendered many people jobless and vast tracts of land unutilised and in control of private parties. A large chunk of land is also inhabited by the various security agencies in the region that further aggravates the situation. The region has also suffered considerable environmental destruction due to large scale deforestation leading to frequent land slide, increased siltation of rivers, floods, and river erosion displacing a large number of people. The phenomenon of globalisation has further aggravated the resource crisis by creating new demands for the resources and introducing private corporations with large financial resources. This has brought them in direct conflict with the communities who were early enjoying these resources and are now being handed over to private corporations by state for a price. One can see it, among others, from the extent of land most states acquire for private companies. For example, Orissa had acquired 40,000 ha for industries during 1951-1995 but plans to acquire 100,000 ha in a decade. Andhra Pradesh has acquired in five years half as much land for industry as it did in 45 years. Similar quantities are being acquired in Jharkhand for mines that foreign companies are eyeing. Goa had acquired 3.5 per cent of the state's landmass in 1965-1995 and plans to acquire 7.2 per cent of it during this decade. Our experience suggests that governments have expressed their inability in rehabilitating IDPs citing paucity of land so, any land acquisition will happen only by confiscating common property resources (CPRs) being used by other communities causing tension between host communities and oustees, and culturable waste land which will need investment of an unusually higher order than the amount of compensation paid by the government. This needs to be understood that the CPRs are crucial to people's sustenance. There are also instances where the rivers are being privatised; water systems are being privatised and creating extraordinary demands on the existing resources leading to environmental destruction. The unmindful exploitation of resources and unregulated discharge of harmful chemicals and waste materials are contributing to the environmental degradation. All these factors are together contributing towards resource and environmental crisis leading to forced migration of people
Module F (Ethics of care and justice)
Why should we care for and protect the victims of forced displacement? The “we” here 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 therefore is expected to establish some form of a connection between us and them, between those who are not forcibly displaced and those who are. Ethical language therefore is a language of universality that cuts across the given boundaries of the victims' groups and communities. While ethical language has to be universal, the phenomenon of forced displacement is not. It is true that the incidence of forced displacement has alarmingly been on the rise.
What we see is the presence of a wide variety of argumentation and reasoning offered by us in justification of our advocacies for care and protection of the displaced persons. First of all, there is the rights-based argument. Care and protection according to this argument, will be construed as our 'duty' insofar as the 'well being' of the displaced persons becomes 'a sufficient reason for holding us to be under this duty'. The problem recognized by almost all the exponents of this argument is that the right against displacement is not an end in itself and cannot per se be regarded as the 'sufficient reason' for holding us under this duty. Sufficiency of reason does not reflect itself in the same way as in the two advocacies for the right against displacement and say, the right to life. If one's displacement becomes a necessary condition for another's enjoyment of the right to life often understood as decent life, we can say that the former is derogable and the latter is not. Thus, the right against eviction routinely carried out in the metropolitan cities of South Asia whether in Dhaka, Kolkata or Islamabad or elsewhere, has to contend with the argument for development and decent life defined everywhere as a 'collective goal of the community as a whole'. This takes us to the heart of our second argument. According to it, care and protection always follow the established lines of community and kinship. Organizing responses beyond these lines proves particularly difficult especially in South Asia where community and kinship ties are found to be exceptionally strong. The community-based argument evidently has its limits: in course of organizing the responses, it not only reinforces the traditional lines of rivalry, but reenacts the inequities and asymmetries otherwise internal to these bodies. Various reports emphasize how life in camps, allocation and utilization of aid and assistance for the displaced persons reinforce the kinship and community lineages and become the fertile ground for future tensions and ethnic strife. The limits of the community-based argument are sought to be overcome by what we call, the humanitarian argument. Today, the humanitarian ethics seldom turns on one's own self. It instead considers others as equal ethical agents in the sense that they are as much entitled to 'purity and perfection' as we are. Viewed in this light, our care and protection are a tribute to their ethical entitlements, of which they are otherwise deprived.
Humanitarian ethics thus has two presuppositions: first, displacement in South Asia cannot be fathomed without the metaphor of home for it is not simply where we live or to which all of us are morally entitled like many other objects of our social existence, but it is the fountainhead of all our moral and ethical entitlements. Almost all the South Asian societies make a distinction between the home we simply live in and the home that helps shape what we aspire to become and therefore invest us with our moral identities. Any involuntary displacement is a disjuncture between home and home, between what we are and what we want to become, between our senses of lack and fulfillment. Secondly, should a conflict arise between our and their moral entitlements, humanitarian ethics always settles for a minimalist course. Those of us who have the commitment to and power of taking care and protecting the displaced persons will be under any moral obligation if and only if by taking care and protecting them we 'do not sacrifice anything of comparable moral importance', that is to say, our own right to life and livelihood.
The module discusses these ethical standpoints and goes deep into the relation between the human rights and humanitarian standpoints with regard to the needs of the displaced.
Some of the Suggested Readings:
Banerjee Paula, Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury and Samir Das (ed), Internal Displacement in South Asia, (Sage Publications, 2003)
B.S. Chimni, International Refugee Law A Reader (Sage Publications, 2003)
Cahn Stephen & Peter Markie (eds.), Ethics: History, Theory and Contemporary Issues (Oxford University Press, 1998).
Dworkin, Ronald (1977): Taking Rights Seriously ( Harvard University Press, 1977)
Etienne Balibar, in Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class Ambiguous Identities (Verso, 1991)
Foucault, Michel (1994): Ethics: Essential Works of Foucault 1954 1984, Vol. 1, ed. Paul Rabinow. (Penguin, 1994).
Monroe Kristen Renwick, The Heart of Altruism: Perceptions of a Common Humanity (Princeton University Press, 1996).
Raz Joseph: The Morality of Freedom. (Clarendon, 1986)
Samaddar Ranabir (ed.), Peace Studies I (Sage Publications, 2004)
Samaddar Ranabir (ed.), Refugees and the State (Sage Publications, 2003)
Samaddar Ranabir, The Marginal Nation (Sage Publications, 1999)
Plus, all issues of the journal, REFUGEE WATCH, articles published in other journal and volumes, and web-based material.
Public Discussions and Events
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:
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.
Some of the Participants and Faculty Members 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 benefitted 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.
of the past Faculty members from outside
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
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.
All applications reaching before 31 May will be considered for the course of that year. Applications reaching after that will be considered for the following year’s programme.
This programme is supported by the UNHCR, the Government of Finland, and the Brookings Institution.
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