Second CRG Winter Course on Forced Migration, Racism, Immigration and Xenophobia


This report is a product of writings and reports prepared by several participants, faculty members and members of CRG desk for the winter course on forced migration, racism, immigration and xenophobia.  It is a collaborative product.  Thanks are to the participants and all others who contributed to it.  Thanks are to the UNHCR, the Brookings Institution and the Government of Finland in particular, whose generous help and advice made the programme possible.


  1. Introducing the Course
  2. The Calcutta Research Group
  3. Structure of the Course
  4. The Participants
  5. Members of Faculty and Speakers in Roundtables
  6. Partnerships
  7. 15 Day Schedule
  8. Distance Education and Assignments
  9. Field Visit
  10. Public Lecture
  11. Interactive Sessions
  12. Images and Films
  13. Inaugural and Valedictory Sessions
  14. Keynote Lectures
  15. Evaluation
  16. The CRG team


1. Introducing to the Course

The Second Annual Winter Course on Forced Migration, Racism, Immigration, and Xenophobia organised by the Calcutta Research Group was held in Kolkata from 1 December to 15 December 2004 and was preceded by a two-month long distance education programme.


The course is an outcome of the ongoing and past work by the Calcutta Research Group (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, and policy analysis of laws and administrative measures in this field. 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, analysis of notions of vulnerability, care, risk, protection, and settlement, and attention on gender concerns as an integral part of the course.


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 will draw 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.


In the matter of norms for selection of participants, attention is given to the understanding of the concept of forced migration, gender concerns, experience of working in refugee camps and camps of the internally displaced, institutional sponsorship, ensuring a combination of activist and academic attributes, proper recommendations, and applicant’s understanding about possible benefits of the course, and her ideas about follow up.


The course is a regular feature. The course is interactive and deliberative, and is built on hard experiences, and field visit. It encourages critical legal analysis and policy work. It is open to scholars, researchers, human rights activists, persons belonging to humanitarian institutions, jurists, journalists, and above all to victims of forced migration – refugees and displaced themselves. Women activists and participants from all these categories provide the course with a constant criticality that makes the programme significantly different from other initiatives.


Reading material is sent to the participants in a phased manner; there are lead-questions and discussion points sent along with the material; e-groups are formed for discussion, each participant writes in this period a 1000 word review note on any of the material sent to them, and then they have to complete course assignments.


2. The Calcutta Research Group

The Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG) is a forum of socially committed researchers engaged in policy studies on human rights, and issues of democracy and governance. Established in December 1995 with a core group of eight persons, and beginning its work as the secretariat of a huge conference of 400 peace activists of Pakistan and India in Kolkata on the occasion of the Third Joint Conference of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, CRG has grown into an impressive body of scholar-activists who share a common interest in related themes of women’s dignity, justice for the victims of forced migration, rights and protection of minorities, peace and conflict resolution, citizenship, issues of borders and border conflict, and sub-regional dialogues in the East and the Northeast of South Asia. Some of its aims are: 

While pursuing its researches, CRG has been successful in bringing together a group of like-minded scholars and academics and maintaining the distinctive group character. With the kind of research outputs to its credit and the database accumulated over the years on the subject of its focus, it can truly claim itself to be a resource centre only of its kind in the east and the northeast. CRG has been functioning with enviable track record beyond the established system of higher education in the country. In Calcutta it is again the only public forum of eminent intellectuals and dynamic young researchers working on policies and issues of peace, conflict resolution, human rights, and democracy.  


The members of the CRG are acclaimed academics and professionals in their respective fields; they are noted researchers, teachers, journalists, communicators, publishers, editors, and women’s rights activists. While their individual work is well known in respective fields, their collective association on a voluntary basis in form of a research group has given CRG’s distinctive character. Members were originally from the city of Kolkata, which explains its name, but its partnership is with many colleagues and institutions in India and elsewhere. Willing individuals, groups, and institutions from outside can also apply for associational membership.


While pursuing its studies, and conducting dialogues towards building networks on peace and human rights, and making meaningful interventions for justice and democracy, CRG has been successful in taking up themes of wide ranging and diverse character involving women, cultural activists, journalists, academics, lawyers, and peace campaigners. Its publications including a regular journal on forced migration have caught the attention of the academia, research institutions, and multilateral humanitarian and human rights bodies.


3. Structure of the Course

The Second Annual CRG Winter Course on Forced Migration Racism, Immigration and Xenophobia was concluded on 15 December 2004. The major thrust area of this course is South Asia although 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.  It analyses mechanisms, both formal and informal, for empowerment of the displaced. It pays particular attention to different forms of vulnerabilities in displacement without creating hierarchies.  It is a is built around six modules.


The following modules were the basis of the course syllabus: 

The course serves multiple objectives including research, training, and capacity building and networking. The programmes always involve several university departments and personnel, and other institutions working in this area. This year the course gave special attention to increasing racism and xenophobia as reasons of forced displacement in the post 9/11 worlds.  Attention was also given to the benchmark set by national and international human rights and humanitarian laws and principles for care of vulnerable communities such as the displaced and included the experiences of the relevant organisations and front-ranking personnel in relief and rehabilitation.


Course activities besides the writing assignments, included workshop assignments, group discussions, field visit, creative sessions, review discussions, and face-to-face sessions with resource persons experienced in related areas and with refugees living in camps. The course also included film and documentary sessions.


Duration and activities

The certificate course was of three (3) months duration with two and half months duration of distance education, communication on related issues of displacement studies, course assignments by participants and fifteen days of direct course work in form of a winter workshop. Upon the participants being selected, course material was sent to them in a phased manner Short introductory notes on each module was sent to the participants; along with these notes, lists, bibliographies, and other announcements were also sent. The reading material was also sent to the participants in a phased manner.  For review assignments and term papers lead-questions and discussion points were sent in regular intervals. Each module had a tutor and a number of faculty members. On the basis of the modules chosen by them the participants were encouraged to contact the faculty persons for necessary advice and inputs. The participants were required to prepare an assignment paper each and bring the papers with them for the workshop where the papers were discussed. These papers were made available for wider circulation in the CRG website. The period of three months was also 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. Thus preparation of course material was of great significance. Two weeks before the participants arrived in Kolkata they were given workshop themes and encouraged to participate in one of the workshops.



There were nineteen participants in the course. They were selected through public notification and were drawn from backgrounds of law, social and humanitarian work, human rights work, and academic and research work. Most of them came from South Asia but a few were also from other regions such as Europe, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions and brought forth with them wider experiences of refugee-hood and rehabilitation and care. 



The faculty was drawn from people with recognised backgrounds in refugee studies, studies on internal displacement, university teaching and research, humanitarian work in NGOs, legal studies, UN functionaries, particularly UNHCR and ICRC functionaries; public policy analysis, journalism, and concerned human rights activism and humanitarian work. Attention was paid to diversity of background and region. Most importance was attached to the requirements of the syllabus; the faculty was also involved in developing on a permanent scale a syllabus, a set of reading material, evaluation, and follow-up activities. The resource persons also helped in harmonising the syllabus of this course with the requirements of the participants, and similar syllabi in various universities, workshops, and courses. 


4. The Participants

Ala Azzeh is a Research Officer with the United Nations Relief and Work Agency in Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine.


Fatme Qassem Agbaria is a PhD. Student at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. 


Maria Ahlqvist is pursuing a Masters degree in Development Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland.  She was on an exchange visit to the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India as part of her field work on Development studies.


Shahzada M. Akram is a Research Associate at the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Sudeep Basu is a Researcher on Tibetan refugees at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, India


Kabita Chakma is a Researcher on Women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and an activist. She is the Ex-President of Hill Women’s Federation, Chittagong Hill Tracts, and Bangladesh.


Shreyashi Choudhury is a Research Scholar, Department of South and South East Asian Studies, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India.


Ayesha Sen Choudhury is a Student of Law (BSL.LLB), Indian Law Society’s (ILS) Law College, Pune.  Specialization – International humanitarian Law and Human Rights.


Prahlad Dahal is a Bhutanese Refugee and Refugee rights activist, Bhutanese Refugee, General Secretary (External), Peoples Forum for Human Rights, Bhutan (PFHRB), Damak – 11, Jhapa, Nepal.


Parveen Abdul Gaffar is currently employed as the Programme Officer - Advocacy at the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, Colombo.


Marnie Lloyd is a lawyer from New Zealand, specializing in humanitarian law and human rights.  She is currently working as a research associate at the European Center for Minority Issues, Germany.


Deeptima Massey is working on a DPhil on Vulnerability and Coping Mechanisms for seasonal migrants in W. Bengal at the Development Research Center, University of Sussex, England.


K.M. Parivelan is a Researcher; Voluntary repatriation specialist, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Chennai, India.


Munawwar Rahi is Editor of Sanwad Sangam and works with several human rights organisations.  He is also the National Secretary, Bharatiya Dalit Sahitya Academy, New Delhi and Convenor of All India Muslin Youth for Action.


P.S. Rao is the Deputy Superintendent of Police (Investigation), Senior Investigation Officer in the National Human Rights Commission of India.


Eva Saroch is a Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Geopolitics, Department of Political Science, Punjab University, Chandigarh, India.


Vanita Sharma is a final year DPhil student in Modern History at Oxford University.  Her
thesis in progress is on the “collective memory of the 1947 partition of British India”. She has writing articles and giving lectures on her research, and on Indo-Pak peace initiatives, in Oxford, Lahore and Delhi.    


Atta ur Rehman Sheikh is a Researcher on displaced persons and also a human rights activist, working with Aurat Foundations in Lahore, Pakistan.


Oishik Sircar is a human rights lawyer and researcher. He is presently Regional Campaigner - West & South India with Amnesty International and works primarily on issues of gender, sexuality and violence. He is a  recepient of the WISCOMP Scholar of Peace Fellowship (2004-2005) for a special project titled 'Engendering Perscution: Violence Against Women in South Asia and International Refugee Law'.


Dhamen Thinbaijam is a journalist with the Imphal Free Press, Imphal, India.


Shanti Nandana Wijesinghe is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.


5. Members of Faculty and Speakers in Roundtables


Itty Abraham   is the Director of South Asia Programme at the Social Science Research Council, Washington DC, USA.


Paula Banerjee is a Historian and women’s rights activist, Calcutta Research Group, Faculty, Department of South and South-East Asian studies, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India.


Sanjoy Barbora is a Research Scholar and human rights activist, Assam, India.


Pradip Kr. Bose is the President, Calcutta Research Group & Faculty, Department of Sociology, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, India.


Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury is member of the Calcutta Research Group and Faculty, Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, India.


Anindit Roy Chowdhury is a Programme Director with Sanlap, Kolkata, India.


Carol Batchelor is the Deputy Chief of Mission, India, UNHCR, New Delhi, India.


Sanjay Chaturvedi is Co-ordinator, Centre for the Study of Geopolitics, Department of Political Science, Punjab University, Chandigarh, India


Linda Chaakchuak is a journalist and Co-Editor of “Grassroots Options”, Shillong, India.


B.S. Chimni is Vice Chancellor, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, India.


Dana Clarke is Member/Researcher, International Accountability Project, Berkely, USA.


Cynthia Cockburn is an Eminent Feminist Thinker, Visiting Professor, Department of Sociology School of Social and Human Sciences, City University London, UK.


Roberta Cohen is Co-Director, Internal Displacment Project, Brookings Institution, Washington D.C., USA.


Samir K. Das is apolitical analyst on the North East, Calcutta Research Group, and Faculty, Department of Political Science, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India.


David Fisher is a Jurist, Consultant/Researcher in support of the mandate of the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland.


Meghna Guhathakurta is a Professor, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Asha Hans is the Director, School of Women’s studies, Department of Political Science, Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar, India.


Monirul Hussain is a Political Sociologist, Professor, Department of Political Science, Gauhati Unviersity, Guwahati, India.


Rajesh Kharat is a Faculty, Department of Politcal Science, University of Bombay, Mumbai, India.


Lennart Kotsalainen is the Chief of Mission, UNHCR, New Delhi, India.


A.F. Mathew is Assistant Professor, Mudra Institute of Communiataions, Ahmedabad, India


Ishita Mukhopadhyay is Director, Women's Studies Research Centre, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India.


Shee Mulay is the Director, McGill Centre for Research & Teaching on Women, Mc Gill University, Montreal, Canada.


Rev. Dr. Joshva Raja is the Associate Professor and Chairperson, Department of Communication, United Theological College, Bangalore, India.


Gunther Rautz is a Jurist and Senior Researcher at the European Academy of Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy.


K.C. Saha is the Election Commissioner, Bihar, India.


Ranabir Samaddar is a Political thinker, Director, Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata, India.


Willem Van Schendel is Professor, Department of History, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.


Jeevan Thiagaraja  is Director, Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Advinn DeWind is Director of the International Migration Programme, Social Science Research Council, New York, USA.


Oren Yiftachel is an eminent peace activist and thinker, Faculty, Department of Geography and Political Science, Ben Gurion University, Israel.


6. Partnerships: Supporting and Collaborating Institutions for the Winter Course

The Government of Finland, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, New Delhi, and the Brookings Institution, Washington DC were the sponsors of the programme. With their un-stinted support and goodwill, the programme has become one of the most well known events in the field of studies on forced migration studies, an academic event in Kolkata.


One of the salient features of the course is the public dimension of the course, made possible with the cooperation of several institutions. Apart from the classes and other sessions, the course had public lectures, discussions, and round tables. The collaborating institutions were the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Calcutta University, the Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University, the Department of History, Presidency College, the Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University, and the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences. Detailed reports on these interactive events follow. Another highlight of the course was the field visit by the participants to the Indo-Bangladesh border in the Nadia district, again made possible due to local body of the Association of Protection of Democratic Rights, the BSF, local government officials, and the villagers. Everyone had contributed to making the educational visit a rewarding experience and a success.


The collaborative nature of the programme was underlined from the beginning by the participatory nature of the advisory meeting. Experts belonging to several institutions and bodies such as the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo, Guwahati University, Manobodhikar Samity of Assam, Presidency College, Calcutta University, Jadavpur University, Rabindra University, Mumbai University, ICSSR (Northeast Regional Centre), Punbjab University, Utkal University, joined the planning and advisory meeting. Besides other individuals sent their inputs by mail and helped the planning. Participants of the First Course were also invited to help with their experiences.


The ex-participants were unanimous in their view that the course helped them get an overall perspective of the phenomenon of forced migration in South Asia. They appreciated the wide diversity in the background of selected participants as each tried to contribute to the discussions on the basis of his/her own experience.  This diversified the discussions and made it richer. They also appreciated the human rights thrust and the critical nature of the course. They made the following suggestions for improvement: (a) field-work could be better organised and more information could be given to the participants about the area that they are to cover during their field-work; (b) more case studies may be given for better understanding of the mixed nature of forced migration; (c) some examples of durable solution and recommendations for the improvement of the situation of victims should be discussed; (d) and the issue of religion as a cause for conflict and the resultant forced displacement in South Asia needed has to be studied. The improvements in the Second Course were substantially the results of their suggestions. They also suggested that material on each module could be introduced through a synopsis that stated clearly what part of the material was mandatory reading and what could be considered as reference or for further reading for the interested.


Other suggestions also emerged 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 reflected its participatory nature – were some such proposals which were put in practice.


Several faculty members came without full or any travel support and offered to contribute their knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the course. Finally, the cooperation from various quarters in circulating the announcement on the course was tremendous. In all these, the cooperation of the participants and the ex-participants was the most valuable asset. CRG remains indebted to all for making the course a success.


7. The 15-Day Schedule

The 15-Day Schedule


Six modules in the course:


Nationalism, ethnicity, racism, and xenophobia,

Gender dimensions of forced migration, vulnerabilities, and justice,

International, regional, and the national regimes of protection, sovereignty and the principle of responsibility,

Resource politics, environmental degradation, and forced migration.

Internal displacement – causes, linkages, and responses,

Ethics of care and justice


Schedule of the 15-day programme:


(Venue – Hotel Hindusthan International)


1December (Wednesday)


5 PM – Inauguration

Chief Guest – Lennart Kotsalainen, Chief of Mission, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Guest of Honour - Anna-Kaisa Heikkinen, Attache, Embassy of Finland

Introductory Address by Ranabir Samaddar, Director, CRG

Inaugural Lecture “Two Children of Ethnocracy : Partition and Displacement” by Oren Yiftachel, Department of Geography and Political Science, Ben Gurion University, Israel.

Chair: Pradip Kr. Bose, President, CRG



2 December (Thursday)


9.30 – 11 AM – Explaining the Course / Ranabir Samaddar

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30 A.M. –1 P.M. – Module A / Ranabir Samaddar

1-2 P.M. – Lunch Break

2-3.30 PM – L. Kotsalainen : “South Asia and the International Regime of Protection.”

3.30-4P.M. – Tea Break

4-5.30 P.M. – “Is the International Regime of Protection Widening or Shrinking” – A face to face discussion with Lennart Kotsalainen (Moderator: Asha Hans) (Module C).


7-8 P.M. – Library hours


3 December  (Friday)


9.30-11A.M. – Module A / Oren Yiftachel

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea Break

11.30A.M.-1P.M. – Participants’ presentation under Module A (Moderator: Samir K. Das)

1-2P.M. Lunch Break

2-3.30P.M. – Panel discussion on the right to return – “Is the Right to Return a Symbolic  Right? – Experiences of Chin, Bhutanese, Palestinian, Sri Lankan and Partition Refugees.” (Dhamen Thingbaijam, Prahlad Dahal, Parveen Gaffar, Moderator: Paula Banerjee) / Module F

3.30-4P.M. – Tea break

4-5.30 P.M. – Panel discussion contd.


8P.M. – Dinner discussion / face to face with Oren Yiftachel .  Moderator : Ranabir Samaddar


4 December (Saturday)


9.30-11 A.M. – Module B / Asha Hans

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30-1 P.M. – Module B / Paula Banerjee

1-2 P.M. – Lunch Break

2-3.30 P.M. – Participants’ presentation under Module B (Moderator: Paula Banerjee)

3.30-4 P.M. – Tea break

4-5.30 P.M. – Discussion on revision of term papers under Modules A & B with Samir K. Das and Paula Banerjee and other concerned resource persons (only with participants presenting papers under these two modules)


7-8 P.M. – Library hours


5 December (Sunday)


9-9.30 A.M. Briefing on field visit by Ramen Moitra


9.30-11A.M. – Module C / B.S. Chimni

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30 A.M. – 1 P.M. – Module C / David Fisher

1-2 P.M. – Lunch break

2-3.30 P.M. – Participants’ presentation under Module C (Moderator: Meghna Guhathakurta)

3.30 – 4 P.M. – Tea break

4-5.30 P.M. – Library hours


6 December (Monday)


9.30-11 A.M. – Module D / Dana Clarke

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30A.M. – 1P.M. – Module D / Meghna Guhathakurta

1-2 P.M. – Lunch Break

2-3.30 P.M. – Roundtable on “Resource, Gender, and Forced Migration” (Moderator: Ishita Mukherjee / Participants: Meghna Guhathakurta, Sanjoy Barbora, Dana Clarke, Madhuresh Kumar) / Modules B and D. / In collaboration with Women’s Studies Research Centre, Calcutta University.

3.30-4 P.M. – Tea break

4 – 5.30 P.M. – Roundtable contd.


6-8 P.M. – Library hours

7-8 P.M. Discussion on revision of term papers under Modules C with Meghna Guhathakurta and other concerned resource persons (only with participants presenting papers under this module)


7 December (Tuesday)


9.30-11A.M. – Participants’ presentation under Module D (Moderator : Dana Clarke)

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30A.M. – 1 P.M. – Module F / David Fisher

1-2P.M. – Lunch Break

2-3.30 PM – Face to face with refugee rights activists (Kabita Chakma, Prahlad Dahal, and Fatma Agbaria. Moderator : Aditi Bhaduri)

3.30-4 P.M. – Tea break

3.30-4.30 P.M. – Discussion on revision of term papers under Module D with Dana Clarke and other concerned resource persons (only with participants presenting papers under this module)


5.30 PM – Departure for field visit.


8 December (Wednesday)


 Return from field visit.


9 December (Thursday)


10AM-1PM – Library hours

1-2PM - Lunch

3PM - Public Lecture by Willem Van Schendel “Borderlands, Identities and Migrants in South Asia”. / In collaboration with the Dept. of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University.


10 December (Friday)


9.30-11A.M. Module D/ Willem Van Schendel

11.30A.M. – 1 P.M. – Module E / Jeevan Thiagaraja

1-2 P.M. – Lunch Break

2-3.30 P.M. – Module E / Monirul Hussain

3.30-4 P.M. – Tea break

4-5.30 P.M. – “Conflict, Displacement and the Right to Resettlement and Rehabilitation” : Pradip Wagle, Marnie Lloyd, K. Parivelan, Maria Ahlqvist. Moderator – Aditi Bhaduri


8.30 P.M. – Film on displacement (Facilitator: A.F. Mathew)


11 December (Saturday)


9.30-11 A.M. – Module F / Jeevan Thiagarajah

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30 A.M. – 1 P.M. – Participants’ presentation under Module E (Moderator: Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury)

1-2 P.M. – Lunch

2 - 4 P.M. – Panel discussion on “Borders, Ethnicity, Violence, and Displacement in the Northeast” (Monirul Hussain, Ranabir Samaddar, Gunther Rautz, Deeptima Massey, and Paula Banerjee / Moderator : Willem Van Schendel) / Module E and F.  / In collaboration with Dept. of History, Presidency College

4-30 - 6 P.M. – Participants’ presentation under Module F (Moderator: Pradip K. Bose)


7-8P.M. – Library Hours

7-8 P.M. – Discussion on revision of term papers under Modules E and F / Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury and Jeevan Thiagarajah and other concerned resource persons (only with participants presenting papers under these two modules)


12 December (Sunday)


9.30-11 A.M. – Panel discussion on “Violence, Trafficking, and Forced Labour – Perspectives on Durable Solutions” (Participants: Josh de Wind, Linnda Chakchuak,, Oishik Sircar & Anindit Roy Choudhury / Moderator: Vanita Sharma)

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30 A.M.- 1 P.M. – Contd.

1-2 P.M. – Lunch

3-5 P.M. – Panel discussion on “Administration of Care – How Careful Care Givers Are?” (K.C. Saha, Itty Abraham, Joshva Raja & K.M. Parivelan. / Moderator : Subhas Chakraborty)


8.30 P.M. – Film on displacement (Facilitator: A.F. Mathew)


13 December (Monday)


9.30-11 A.M. – Participants’ Workshop on “Displacement, Victims, and the Relative Roles of the Two Rights of Information and Communication” / Case studies, group assignments, and reports / Facilitator : Sabyasachi Basu Ray Choudhury and Rautz Gunther

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30A.M. – 1 P.M. – Workshop contd.

1-2 P.M. – Lunch

3 P.M.Public Lecture by Roberta Cohen “International Response to the Darfur Crisis”. / In collaboration with The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences


7-8 P.M. – Library Hour


14 December (Tuesday)


9.30-11 A.M. – Participants’ evaluation of their own term papers for publication in the journal Refugee Watch / Moderator: Aditi Bhaduri and Madhuresh Kumar

11-11.30 A.M. – Tea break

11.30 A.M. – 1 P.M. – Course Evaluation / Evaluators : Rajesh Kharat & Sanjay Chaturvedi

1-2 P.M. – Lunch

3.30 P.M.Public Lecture by Carol Batchelor on “Statelessness”. / In collaboration with Dept. of  International Relations, Jadavpur University


Cultural Evening


15 December (Wednesday)


5 P.M. –  Valedictory Session

Guests of Honour - Pirjo Valinoro, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Finland, Roberta Cohen, Co-Director of SAIS-Brookings Institution Programme on IDPs and Carol Batchelor, Deputy Head of Mission, UNHCR

Award of certificates by Carol Batchelor

Book release of  “IDPs in South Asia and the UN Guiding Principles” by Roberta Cohen

Special Lecture “Feminism as a Resource in Opposing Xenophobia and Separatism” by Cynthia Cockburn, Dept. of Sociology, City College London

       Valedictory Lecture by Shree Mulay, Director, Mc Gill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women, McGill University

Closing Remarks by Ranabir Samaddar, Director, CRG     

Chair : Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty, Vice-Chairman, CRG.


8. Distance Education

The two and a half months long distance education was an essential component of the winter course was. The course was structured around six modules that have already been mentioned before.  The participants were given reading materials on all six modules.  The readings were divided in two sections - essential and supplementary. The course material was sent to the participants in a phased manner. The essential readings were sent to them during the distance education period, and the supplementary readings were given when they came to Kolkata for the direct orientation programme. All material sent to them during the distance segment as essential or core material for the course was given free of cost. They were also given a number of books. The essential or core material was in three forms: books, photocopied material strictly meant for classroom use, and electrically sent material in form of attachments, CD, and web-posted and web-linked material.


From 15 September the distance segment of the orientation course began. By 30 September most participants got the books and the photocopied material that were sent to them. A short introductory note on each module was sent to the participants; along with these notes, lists, bibliographies, and other announcements were also sent. Broadly assignments were of three types, all compulsory - a term paper essay (1500 words) based on one of the themes suggested by the faculty relating to any of the modules; a short (700 words) review essay/note on any of the reading material sent to the participants relating to a module - but this module was to be different from the one that they selected for their term paper; and selection of a workshop where they acted as either the chair or a panellist or a discussant. The assignments were sent to them in phases.  First they were expected to do the review essay, then their term paper and finally ten days before coming to Kolkata they were given the workshop themes.  Each module had a tutor and a number of faculty members and the participants were encouraged to get in touch with them for any suggestion, clarification or advice.  The model tutors continuously remained in touch with the participants.  Participants sent their responses in a phased manner.  By mid-October most of them turned in their review assignments and by mid-November their term papers.  They were encouraged to do some original research for their term papers.  For wider discussions review notes and term papers were posted in CRG website.  Different faculty members, who sent directly their comments to the participants, evaluated the review notes and term papers.  If the faculty members so decided their comments were posted in the website.


Select Readings:

Refugee & The State : Ed. Ranabir Samaddar

Biography of the Indian Nation: 1947-199 : / Ranabir  Samaddar

Reflections of Partition in the East : Ed. Ranabir Samaddar

International Refugee Law : A Reader : Ed. B.S. Chimni

Borders and Boundaries: Women in India’s Partition / Ritu Menon & Kamla Bhasin
State, Citizen And Outsiders : Ed. Tapan Bose & Rita Manchanda
The Marginal Nation : Transborder Migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal / Ranabir Samaddar
Exodus Within Borders / David A. Korn
Masses in Flight: The Global Crisis of Internal Displacement / Roberta Cohen and Francis M. Deng
Copies of Refugee Watch
Plus other book extracts, essays, articles, lectures & web-based material.


Course Assignments

The written assignments included one review note and one term paper per participant.  Questions for both the assignments were sent to the participants.  The participants made their selections and sent their responses within a stipulated time.  The questions included the following:


Review Notes


Module A:


Write a review article on the basis of your reading of Paula Banerjee’s “Aliens In A Colonial World” and R. Samaddar’s “A Nation’s Two Subjects” how the notion of race plays an important part in determining who is a citizen and who is a non-citizen.




Write a short review note on how violence and dispute are important features of the formation of nation state.  Refer to the two essays from Refugee Watch.

1Displacing the People the Nation Marches Ahead in Sri Lanka

2. Mohajirs : The Refugees By Choice.



Module B:


Point out how single women (unaccompanied girl child or widow or unmarried single women) feature in selected refugee literature sent to you and comment whether they form a distinct category of victims.




Write a short note/article building on Teresa Hayton’s writing in Refugee Review “No Borders: The Case Against Immigration Control” that reflects on the experiences of trans-border migrant victims (how women as victims of forced displacement negotiate borders).



Module C

Review Sarbani Sen’s “Role of UNHCR in India” and J.M. Castro-Magluff’s "The Inadequacies of International Regime for the Protection of Refugees” and comment on the role of UNHCR in South Asia.  Mention its achievements and limitations.

Review Ranabir Samaddar’s editorial article in Refugees and the State, B.S. Chimni’s two articles published in the Journal of Refugee Studies (“The Geopolitics of Refugee Studies”  & “Globalization, Humanitarianism and the Refugee Protection”) and Tapan Bose and Rita Manchanda’s article “The Changing Nature of Refugee Crisis” and comment on the changing  nature of refugee situation in South Asia.




Module D

On the basis of your reading of Meghna Guhathakurta’s article “Globalization, Class and Gender Relations : The Shrimp Industry In South-western Bangladesh” and the Report on the Workshop on Engendering R & R show how refusing women or divesting them of control over and access to resources have led to large-scale displacement of women.

On reading Sabyasachi Basu Raychoudhury’s essay “Uprooted Twice : Refugees from the Chittagong Hill Tracts”, Sanjay Borbora’s paper “Ethnic Politics and Land Use : Genesis of Conflicts in India’s North-East” and Ranabir Samaddar’s chapter “Agrarian Impasse and the Making of an Immigrant Niche" comment on the impact of land question on refugees and refugee politics.


Module E

Write a review of the relevant chapters of Exodus Within Borders/David A. Korn

Write a review note on Internally Displaced Persons of Afghanistan.

Module F

Review relevant sections (on this module) from B.S. Chimni’s International Refugee Law: A Reader and Ranabir Samaddar’s article on “Power, Fear, Ethics” in Refugee Watch, critically discuss “fear” as a factor in the displacement of vulnerable groups.

On reading Catherine Wihtol de Wenden’s two articles published in Refugee Watch (“Post-Amsterdam Migration Policy and European Citizenship” & How Can One Be Muslim in France?”) and keeping the controversy over “veiling” in France in mind comment on how one can be a Muslim in Europe?


Term Papers


Module A


  1. Connect the four key words in the title of the course – forced migration, racism, immigration, and xenophobia – and write a note on how the syllabus and the reading material of the course integrate these into an orientation course on forced migration.


  1. Show how racism at times is linked to nationalism, majoritarianism, and discriminations of various kinds thereby producing forced displacement of people - both within the borders of the country and across the borders.


  1. Discuss the right to return and argue in that context whether partition refugees should be considered as a distinct category.



Module B



  1. Do you think that the international refugee law has adequate and wide-ranging provisions for women as a distinct group of refugees?


  1. Write a detailed note on the experiences of any of the following women refugee populations in South Asia – Afghan refugee women in Pakistan, Chin refugee women in India, Sri Lankan refugee or internally displaced women, Rohingiya women in Bangladesh, or Bhutanese refugee women in Nepal.


  1. Argue why listening to women’s experiences and chronicling them is particularly important in understanding the “refugee situation” and forging appropriate responses.


Module C



  1. How have recent global economic and political trends and changes impacted on international refugee law?




  1. Analyse the way international refugee law defines “fear” and “vulnerability”.
  2. Compare and contrast International Humanitarian Laws and the South Asian Human Rights Laws and comment how it reflects on situation of refugees in South Asia.


Module D




  1. The resettlement question is in the last instance an issue of access and management of resources – comment.


  1. The question of land lie at the heart of the Bhutanese refugee crisis – discuss.


  1. Does the presence of large numbers of women in any given refugee population in South Asia indicate their lack of control over resources? Comment



Module E 



  1. Show how the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement base themselves on some of the essential elements of international human rights and international humanitarian laws.


  1. Given the inherently difficult relation between the two principles of sovereignty and responsibility, comment on applicability of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in South Asia.


  1. Comment on the situation of the women IDPs in Sri Lanka.



Module F



  1. Discuss the relationship between ethics and power in the context of vulnerable groups.


  1. Discuss the European citizenship question in the context of immigration.
  2. Write critically on Multiculturalism and ethics of tolerance


9. Field visit to India-Bangladesh Border Region

    7-8 December 2004


The participants set out on the evening of 7 December 2004 on a local train, travelling from Sealdah to Krishnanagar.  The group consisted of 19 participants, some members of the CRG staff and Prof. Rajesh Kharat.


The night was spent at a guest house in Krishnanagar and we had plans to leave early the next morning for the border.  The three-hour long journey from Krishnanagar to the border was a fascinating one – a straight sealed road framed by trees, past open sky, green and yellow fields, muddy villages, with children playing, people working and life going on as usual.  On the way the group stopped at Karimpur to have breakfast.


Shortly afterwards all arrived at the border Security Force (BSF) post at Shikarpur.  DIG R.K. Saxena welcomed us and Commandant of the area South Bengal II, R.K. Meena, explained the work of the BSF in this region, showed us certain features on the map of the border region and outlined India’s border policies.


The BSF is a paramilitary force, mandated to work in the border regions separating India from its neighbours.  In the region the group visited, there are about 63 kilometers of the international border, 60% of which are now fenced, electrified in some places as a trial project.


The fences are erected 150 meters from the actual international boundary line.  This is due to a prohibition on constructions closer to the actual border.  The actual international border is marked by small concrete pillars at 200-500 yards intervals, with an imaginary ‘zero line’ connecting the pillars.  These have been in place since 1947.  There are no fences erected on the Bangladesh side of the border.


The BSF explained that the fences are being erected to check smuggling and infiltration in the border region and that there has been a marked decrease since the erection.


There are reports of violence on both sides of the border.  However BSF officers explained to the group that there is no real conflict in the area and that the officers on both sides of the border have cordial relations.  There is a curfew around the fence from 6pm to 6am and if someone is spotted around the fence during that time, s/he is considered to be there with ill intentions.  However, firing is only allowed in self-defence and officers are always asked to exercise the minimum force necessary to stop the offender.


The India-Bangladesh border through this area follows a zig-zag path, often following the path of the river Matabhanga, a tributary of river Padma.  For this reason villages lie much closer to the international boundary.  The effect of the fencing is that a long strip of land fall in between the fence and the international border, creating a type of “no man’s land”, officially still part of Indian territory, but very restricted in terms of its accessibility.  There are gates in the fencing at approximately 1-kilometer intervals, which are opened only from 6-8 am, 11am-1pm and 3-5 pm each day.  In case of emergency (eg. Medical) the gates may be opened at other times.  People may cross through these gates to work on their lands on the other side by showing identification documents issued by the BSF and the Election Commission.


The group visited Phoolbari, a village in exactly this situation.  Phoolbari falls in the “no man’s land” and has no electricity, medical center, markets or schools and the villagers live in abject poverty and impoverishment.  Walking through this village led to the pillar demarcating the international boundary line.  A few meters away stood Bangladeshi farmers, watching the group, but not able to cross over to join the group.  Some wanted to speak with BSF officers but as no Bengali officers are posted in this region as part of India’s policy, language difficulties also exist.  Some villagers explained that they did not mind having the international border in place but did not like the fencing and the gate, which restricted their movements into “mainland” India.  Villagers who cross through the gate during the day must return early in the evening, or be shut out from their homes.


The population of the border region is multi-ethnic, with some areas being Muslim-dominated and some being Hindu-dominated.  There are approximately 900 persons per square km, and there are therefore some difficulties in shifting whole villages because of the already high density of people.  The state will uproot them  sooner or later and has already earmarked some land for them where the villagers will have to reconstruct  their homes.


The river Matabhanga makes a natural boundary and the mid-stream point of the river is taken to be the border where this applies.  However, it also changes course in this region, creating areas known as “chor” lands.


Another issue in the borderlands is that some communities who consider themselves Indian have their villages on what is now Bangladesh territory.  Access from the Bangladeshi side is more difficult because of the river.  Effective control of the land is held by India, known as “adverse possession”.


Chormeghna, one of the areas in India’s “adverse possession” has a school but is otherwise isolated without public transport linking to the other side of the fence.  The inhabitants of the village have to live with the ever-present chance that the land beneath their feet will change hands, or that they will be forced to move.


A village in a mirror position is Jamalpur, which lies on the other bank of the river, Indian land in Bangladesh’s “adverse possession”.  Bangladeshis live next to Indians on what is officially Indian territory.


The group was treated to an excellent lunch and then had the opportunity to meet with some of the villagers, who were curious to see our group.  Some villagers accompanied us to the river Chormeghna 50 meters away from the village.


From Chormeghna, the group visited the Indian bank of the river Padma.  On the way one could see the expanse of the fencing being erected over miles.  The sad reality is that the people who have always lived in this region  are now suffering because of the placement of the fence.  It is not just that they must put with the eyesore of the fencing, but its constant impact on their everyday lives.


The drive back to Krishnanagar railway station was a tired and dusty one, with minds filled with the images of people coping with a life “behind bars”, of smiling children, of normal life going on in an abnormal and insecure situation, of nationals denied access to their own nation.


The overall impression of the participants about the field trip was very positive and encouraging.  Many delegates especially foreign participants felt that the field trip programme was excellent and has to be continued in future as it gives a real picture of the problem.  Participants also think that the single day field visit is not enough to understand the root problems of border people.  Few of them expressed that during the visit the presence of so many volunteers from various organisations became an obstacle to have direct contact with local inhabitants.  Moreover, the language barrier did not allow the non-Bengali participants to conduct personal conversations with locals.  At the organisational level there was no problem.  Everybody was satisfied except few who expected some leisure during the journey.


10.  Public Lectures

Besides the inaugural and valedictory addresses, the course had as its part three public lectures.  These lectures were held in three different universities in the city.


On 9th December Professor Willem Van Schendel from Amsterdam, working on South Asia spoke at the Rabindra Bharati University on “Borderlands, Identities and Migrants in South Asia”.  The lecture was organised in collaboration with the Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University.


Professor Van Schendel started his lecture by noting that the inhabitants of the borderland between India and the eastern wing of Pakistan had no previous experience at all with international borders and sudden imposition of a boundary turned the world upside down.  Unlike much boundary making in the colonial world, the border between India and Pakistan owed little to the “modern concepts” of spatial rationality.  The new international border was anything but a straight line.  It created many enclaves in both territories which exist till today.  While South Asia is poorly represented in borderland studies the study of South Asia borderlands appears indispensable because here a major and intensely contested experiment took place.  Schendel closely studies this crucial region, tracing new geographies thrown up by partition, and the course of human events in South Asia.  The Bengal borderlands challenges existing assumptions about the nature of relationships, between people, place, identity and culture and realises particularly urgent questions in the context of globalisation.


He also said that border-making is equal to making exclusions.  The study of border between India and Bangladesh produce memories of exclusionary violence.  The image f border fence is used in the creation of national myth making.  Panic over borders leads to more militarization of border societies.  He also tries to see the past and future of borders where tiny things at the border influence centers of power.


The lecture was followed by an intense discussion where the participants asked questions on whether there are any solutions on the problem of borderlands, whether borders create their own history, whether geography plays any role in it.


Schendel concluded by saying that he is interested in border-landers as economic agents, social agents, rather than victims.  We should see other perspectives that play important role.  We should go beyond notional images.


On 13th December Dr. Roberta Cohen, co-director of the Brookings Institution-John Hopkins Project on Internal Displacement, spoke at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences on the International Response to the Darfur Emergency. The session was chaired by the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. B.S. Chimni.  See below for complete lecture.


On 14 December Ms. Carol Batchelor, the Senior Legal Officer for Statelessness of the UNHCR, India Office, New Delhi spoke at the Jadavpur University, on “Statelessness”. The lecture was organised in collaboration with the Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University.


In her lecture, Ms. Batchelor discussed the causes for and cases of statelessness in a clear and illusrative manner. She demonstrated how, in some cases, statelessness can arise simply from a fundamental discrepancy in the legistlations of two countries. A person’s nationality can upon request be cancelled as for example where a woman marries a man from another country to which she wishes to move after marriage. But if later on the man passes away and the woman would want to move back to her country of origin and to her relatives, she could suddenly find herself in a situation of statelessness. Thus, the lecture highlighted how one key to solve the problems related to statelessness is the international coherence of legistlation. Ms. Batchelor also discussed the role of UNHCR as a facilitator of stateless’ people’s problems, where UNHCR can try to provide stateless people some kind of a status which would help them for example in claiming rights and seeking protection.


International Response To The Darfur Emergency


Roberta Cohen chose the Darfur emergency as the subject of her lecture in order to focus attention on a crisis in which people were currently under threat in order to stimulate thinking about what steps the international community might take when governments fail to protect their own populations.


Darfur is a place about which little or nothing was heard until the United Nations in April 2004 called it “the worst humanitarian disaster” in the world. Following an attack in Darfur by black African rebel groups on government military outposts in February 2003, government troops together with Arab militias (the Janjaweed) massacred up to 70,000 people, mostly men, from three black African tribes from which the insurgent groups emanated and conducted the systematic rape of women and girls. Some 2 million people were driven from their homes. Many now subsist in squalid camps inside Darfur while approximately 200,000 became refugees in neighboring Chad. It is estimated that 300,000 of the internally displaced (IDPs) have died from starvation and disease in great part because of government obstruction of access to them.


Unlike some other emergencies, this one cannot be called a “forgotten” one. It is on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. UN agencies have drawn up appeals for emergency aid and are on the ground helping. An international inquiry is currently underway into whether genocide has occurred. The media has devoted much attention to the suffering of the population. Nonetheless hundreds of persons continue to die each day in Darfur from starvation, disease and violence. And more and more people are becoming uprooted. Government military attacks continue on the civilian population, at least 400,000 have no access to international aid, and violence continues between rebel forces and government troops. Some speak of a growing anarchy in parts of Darfur.


In today’s lecture, I first will examine the main obstacles to a more robust international response and then identify what has been constructive or positive about the reaction to Darfur that can be built upon in responding to this and future emergencies.


First, let us look at the constraints.


To begin with, the problem in Darfur is one many governments find threatening. That is because there are quite a number of states in the world today whose governments, like Sudan’s, are dominated by one ethnic or racial group to the exclusion or marginalization of other ethnic or racial groups. There are also governments, like Sudan’s, that tend not to see the other groups as “their people,” as citizens they are responsible for protecting. The “others” are seen as something lesser, inferior, sometimes even as the enemy. A process of dehumanization occurs, which makes neglect and even atrocities against particular groups acceptable.


In Darfur, the atrocities committed have been against three black African tribes – the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa – which have long felt neglected by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. Their immediate grievance was that Arab herdsmen were encroaching upon their farmlands, and that the government was siding with the herdsmen rather than working out an equitable system of land sharing between the two groups.  At a more fundamental level, they sought greater autonomy and a larger share of the Sudanese budget, now that oil had begun to enrich the country. Most importantly, they saw that the Arab government was in the process of entering into a power sharing agreement with black African tribes in the south of the country following a 20-year civil war. They wanted the same parity. When the government failed to respond, rebel groups came into being -- the Sudanese Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, and in February 2003, they attacked government outposts


The government’s response was overwhelming. Government troops and helicopters joined by Arab militias on horseback, the Janjaweed, whom the government armed with machine guns, systematically attacked the three black African farming communities from which the rebel groups originated and whose land they coveted. Together they killed tens of thousands of men, raped women and girls, deported nearly two million people and then destroyed their farmlands and poisoned their wells so as to prevent their return.


The government’s response was actually a repeat of the scorched earth tactics it had used earlier against the black African tribes of the south of the country. The southern tribes, who are Christian and animist, had resisted the Arab government’s efforts to impose Islamic law on their part of the country, and as a result, a civil war had raged throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s, producing two million deaths, the destruction of community life in the south and the displacement of more than 4 million Sudanese.


This reliance by a government on excessive force and brutality against rebellious ethnic, racial or religious groups is not something unique to Sudan. Other governments bent on maintaining the dominance of a particular ethnic group have also waged brutal, fratricidal wars against their own populations and have resisted power sharing with the opposing groups. As a result, a number of governments felt uneasy about proposals for strong diplomatic pressure or sanctions against the Sudanese government, especially those governments involved in power struggles with ethnic groups in their own countries demanding greater autonomy and wealth sharing. The Russian Federation, for example, a permanent member of the UN Security Council with a veto, opposed strong action by the Security Council against Sudan. This was not surprising given that Russia has been conducting a scorched earth campaign against the Chechens and feared that a precedent could be set in such cases.  


A second reason for the lack of strong international response was the absence of tools and structures available to the international community to address internal crises. Other than the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is often denied entry into internal strife and civil war situations, there is no international machinery readily available to protect civilians caught up in violence within their own countries. It was only during the last decade of the 20th century that the international community began to become involved in trying to assist and protect persons uprooted and at risk within their own countries. Prior to that time international protection extended only to refugees, who managed to cross borders. In keeping with traditional notions of sovereignty, persons persecuted and trapped within their own countries were considered the exclusive responsibility of their governments; they had no access to an organized system of international protection.


Although international involvement with the internally displaced has begun, it is still fledgling and ad hoc. A Representative on internally displaced persons was appointed in 1992 by the United Nations Secretary-General and more recently an internal displacement division has been created within the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. International humanitarian organizations (UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Food Program, the International Organization for Migration and NGOs) can now be found providing material aid to IDPs in many countries. A set of Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement have been developed to provide guidance to governments and others in their dealings with displaced populations. In an increasing number of cases, the UN Security Council has demanded that governments give international humanitarian access to people inside their own countries and has even on occasion authorized the use of force to ensure the delivery of relief and to provide protection to IDPs and other affected civilians.


But by and large, international involvement remains predictable only in cases of famine and natural disasters. In cases of genocide, large-scale massacres or ‘ethnic cleansing,’ as in Darfur, where governments are unable or unwilling to protect their populations, international action is determined case by case. Although the UN Secretary-General has begun to speak of a "developing international norm in favour of intervention to protect civilians from wholesale slaughter", and a recent high-level UN panel speaks of an international “responsibility to protect”, no country was prepared to send forces to Rwanda at the height of the genocide in 1994. Nor were troops forthcoming when the Secretary-General in 1996 proposed international action in Burundi to forestall predicted massacres. In Kosovo and East Timor, coalitions of the willing came forward to provide protection to civilians, but only after there had been much loss of life. There is no automatic international process of diplomatic and economic pressure to prevent impending genocide or mass killings. And there exists no international enforcement machinery – whether a standby constabulary or police force or a rapid reaction military force. Although the crisis began in Darfur in February 2003, there was no Security Council resolution until July 2004.


A third impediment to strong action is to be found in the political and economic interests of states in the UN Security Council. Pakistan and Algeria, for example, which have close political ties to Arab and Islamic governments such as Sudan’s, worked to delay and weaken international action on Darfur. Other states like China did the same for economic reasons. China is the main foreign investor in Sudan’s oil industry; the China National Petroleum Corporation holds a 40 percent share in the international consortium extracting oil in Sudan. Sudan’s oil is important to China because China has become the world’s second largest oil consumer and needs to diversify its sources of energy. Over the past seven years, Sudan has become a base in Africa for Chinese oil operations and a bridge to oil resources in other African countries. In the Security Council, China abstained on resolutions that threatened sanctions against Sudan, in particular against its petroleum sector, and threatened to use its veto against resolutions that it considered too strong. 


The United States and the European Union also had reasons to avoid confrontation with Sudan. Even though the US did initiate action in the Security Council, and was joined by the European powers, Western countries feared that pressing the Sudanese government too far on Darfur could jeopardize the peace agreement about to be finalized between north and south. The US had invested heavily in the peace process. It was an opportunity to end Africa’s longest running civil war and improve relations with Africa’s largest country, one strategically located and on the US list of states sponsoring international terrorism. In fact, Sudan had begun to cooperate with the United States and the US was looking forward to lifting sanctions against Sudan, investing in the development of the country and normalizing relations. It wanted to give no excuse to the Sudanese government to walk away from the peace table. The Sudanese government of course played this card skillfully by moving forward with progress on the north-south peace process in exchange for weak action on Darfur.


A fourth impediment to robust action was the secondary status of Africa itself. As two observers pointed out in the American press, the international system is broken when it comes to Africa. To be sure there are international peacekeepers in Congo, Liberia and the Ivory Coast, but by and large, western governments do not consider it to be in their national or strategic interest to take the political, financial or military risks needed to stop killings on the African continent. While they are ready to denounce the atrocities and provide generous humanitarian help, the costs are considered too high to become involved in trying to stop the killings. It is difficult to imagine a crisis in Africa, they wrote, no matter how heavy the prospective death toll, that would generate the consensus needed not merely to feed civilians but to save them.  I would add that even when it comes to feeding the civilians, only 52 percent of the resources the UN has asked for to address the emergency in Darfur have been met.


Finally, the impact of the US invasion of Iraq played a significant role. Although the US invasion of Iraq was not carried out for humanitarian or human rights reasons, the Bush Administration fell back upon a human rights and humanitarian rationale when no weapons of mass destruction were found. This made suspect Bush Administration expressions of concern about Darfur and caused speculation that this would lead to military intervention in Darfur. The US in fact had no intention of intervening in Darfur, but even the hint of possible foreign intervention brought forth strong international opposition, especially from the Arab and Muslim world. The whole idea, therefore, of considering some kind of humanitarian intervention to protect civilians in Darfur was sidelined even though the situation had deteriorated to the point that humanitarian intervention should have been an option to consider.


All these factors worked to assure a fairly feeble international response. It took more than a year for the Security Council to adopt a resolution on Darfur, which it did for the first time in July 2004. No sanctions of any kind were introduced even though two Security Council resolutions indirectly threatened sanctions should the government fail to halt attacks against its civilian population and disarm and prosecute the Janjaweed. When the government failed to comply with these provisions of the resolution, there was little or no reaction. No proposals were made, for example, to embargo arms to Sudan or restrict travel of its officials. China, Algeria, Pakistan and Russia, moreover, abstained on one or the other of the resolutions adopted, weakening their authority. The result emboldened the Sudanese government. As we speak, violence continues in Darfur. Government and paramilitary forces continue to attack black African farming villages and also displaced persons camps, around which are ringed police and military. There are persistent rapes of women searching for firewood outside the IDP camps. Aid workers are being harassed and robbed by both government and rebel forces, the head of Oxfam having been expelled by the government for drawing attention to these problems. The death toll continues among IDPs in the camps. The general insecurity prevents the returns of displaced persons to their homes and the planting of crops. Indeed, the more than a million people in the camps have become 100 per cent dependent on outside aid because they cannot go outside the camps with any security to farm. Members of the Janjaweed, moreover, have been taking over the farming land they have long coveted.


Let us now look at whether any positive features have emerged from the crisis. 


To begin with, diplomatic pressure when exerted did produce results. Visits by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Colin Powell to Darfur in July 2004, followed by other international officials, led to the Sudanese government’s lifting restrictions on humanitarian organizations, enabling them to reach about one million IDPs, although aid agencies still do not have access to about 400,000. The government also allowed entry both to international human rights monitors (up to 35) and to a UN team to investigate whether genocide has been committed. Most notably, it entered into talks with the Darfur rebels, sponsored by the African Union, and agreed to allow into the Darfur area 3,500 AU ceasefire monitors, troops and police to monitor the cease fire, protect the monitors and also assume some limited protection responsibilities.


Indeed, the role played by the AU, if developed to its full potential, offers promise. Given the unwillingness of the international community to act, the African Union came forward to try to put out the fires in its own region. It should be recalled that when the AU replaced the Organization of African Unity in 2000, it committed itself to becoming a much stronger organization in the area of conflict prevention and resolution. Its founding document reflects a changed notion of sovereignty in Africa. Whereas traditional notions would prohibit any interference in the internal affairs of a state, the AU’s founding document says that the organization has a right to intervene in a member state, pursuant to a decision of its Assembly. in the case of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. In the Darfur emergency, the AU negotiated the April ceasefire between the rebels and the government and then deployed several hundred unarmed observers to monitor it. When the violence continued, the AU deployed armed peacekeepers to protect the monitors and then expanded the numbers to be sent in and the mandate itself so that its police and troops could increase security for IDP camps, help with returns of the displaced and protect civilians from “imminent threat.” Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame even announced publicly that Rwandan troops would not stand by if civilians were attacked. 


At the same time, AU forces have done little in fact to protect IDPs because the Sudanese government has opposed an AU protection role. Nor does the AU have adequate resources or staff to do a really effective job. Thus far, it has fielded only 900 monitors, troops and police to Darfur, but even the 3,500 planned would be far too small to be effective in a region the size of France. The organization has almost no aircraft to bring its police and troops into Darfur and has only a few vehicles to transport them overland. It has insufficient communications equipment, tents, boots and other basic equipment, and by all accounts, its police and troops need training. Western and other countries have tended to exaggerate the capability of the AU because they do not want to become involved in a more robust way. Nonetheless, they have pledged to provide funds and airlift and logistical support to enable the AU to carry out its mission in Darfur and have been airlifting AU troops into Sudan – albeit slowly. But what is important here is that this combination of regional involvement backed up by international support has the potential to become a more viable permanent arrangement for responding to conflict and displacement in Africa. Regional involvement, moreover, has proved a more palatable and face-saving arrangement for the government of Sudan than international forces.


Another development worth noting is the attention being paid to political solutions to the crisis. In too many humanitarian emergencies, the main focus of the international community is on delivering humanitarian aid. In this crisis, there seems to be some impetus for addressing the grievances and inequities at the heart of the conflict. Most notably, there has been extensive international investment in bringing about an agreement between the government and the southern rebels. A peace agreement is to be finalized and signed by the end of the year. If in fact signed and implemented, it could provide the basis for addressing the crisis in Darfur. The North-South agreement provides for power and wealth sharing between the government and southern black African tribes and there are annexes to the agreement that extend to other ethnic groups such as the Nuba. Certainly, an extension could be negotiated for Darfur. Moreover, when the agreement comes into force and southern black African tribes become part of the government, they will hardly be able to accept the current government’s policies toward Darfur.


The latest Security Council resolution in Darfur presses for the finalization of the north-south peace agreement on the understanding that this will contribute to the efforts to address the crisis in Darfur. The latest Security Council resolution presents a policy of carrots rather than sticks offering the rapid delivery of reconstruction and development aid and debt relief to Sudan when it signs and implements the agreement. Of course one could well ask whether the international community should first insist upon a halt to the atrocities in Darfur before proceeding with the north-south peace agreement, but the current momentum is in the direction of this overall peace agreement, which it is feared could be jeopardized if the focus remains on Darfur.


The North-South agreement itself reflects a greater consciousness by the black African population of Sudan that its members should share in the political and economic life of the country. Basically it moves Sudan in the direction of becoming a multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-religious society. This is an important development, and long in coming. After all, Sudan sits on the cross roads between Arab North Africa and sub-Saharan black Africa. More than 50 percent of its population is black African. According to Francis Deng, former Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, and a southern Sudanese, “the ruling Arab-Islamic minority has projected the Sudan as an Arab Muslim country, which is a clear distortion of the realities not only of the country as a whole but even of the racial composition of those who view themselves as Arab. Nearly every Sudanese who can justifiably claim to be racially or ethnically Arab is in fact a hybrid of African and Arab elements.” Enabling Sudan to reflect its diversity is one sure way of resolving the Darfur crisis and bringing the displaced home.


Finally, I would note that the vocal support of civil society in different countries for action on Darfur was a positive feature of the crisis. In Western countries, it raised consciousness and helped to propel action. In the United States, for example, church groups were highly influential in persuading the Bush Administration to speak out on Darfur and to address for the North-South peace process. The Congressional Black Caucus, a group of Afro-American members of the US Congress, was also an active pressure group, as were human rights organizations.


In conclusion, in looking at the international response to the Darfur emergency, one can say that while the overall response was delayed and also weak, there are elements to build on -- the role undertaken by the African Union, and the prospective North-South peace settlement’s potential impact on the situation in Darfur.


At the same time, there remain fundamental dilemmas, reflected in the findings of a high-level UN panel that reported on December 1 to the UN Secretary-General on collective security in the 21st century. Among its recommendations pertinent to our discussions was the panel’s endorsement of “a collective international responsibility to protect” as an “emerging norm” when governments are unable or unwilling to protect their own populations. But it qualifies this by specifying that this responsibility should be exercisable by the Security Council, without saying what should happen if the Security Council fails to act – as in Darfur. The panel also supports international intervention in the event of genocide, large-scale killings and ethnic cleansing but qualifies such action as “a last resort.” While it is true that military solutions should be a last resort, and that every effort must be made to prevent human rights disasters from occurring, it must also be borne in mind that genocide can happen very quickly. In Rwanda, hundreds of thousands of people were killed in a matter of weeks. Force only as a last resort could mean a large number of deaths before any action is taken. 


Allow me thus to pose a question to the audience that will be a test for the 21st century: how should the international community set up a more effective international system when governments are unable or unwilling to protect people caught up in rampages of violence in their own countries?


11. Interactive Sessions


One of the reasons why the CRG winter course is special is because it has a number of interactive sessions in the form of round tables and panel discussions.  This year each module had at least one interactive session.  Most of these sessions were public sessions. The themes of the sessions were: 

Participants for these sessions included administrators, members of institutions that deal with refugees and IDPs such as the UNHCR and the National Human Rights Commission, human rights activists, refugee activists, creative writers, legal analysts and refugees and IDPs who have had experiences of living in camps. 


In the panel on Is the right to return a symbolic right? the discussions started with a statement by the chair that refugees traditionally consider this right as the core issue around which revolves all their activism. The panelists included Prahlad Dhal, Thingbaijam Dhamen, Eva Saroch, Kabita Chakma and Parveen A. Gaffar and was chaired by Paula Banerjee. Prahlad Dhal speaking on the experience of Bhutanese refugees numbering 1 lakh, traced the background to the displacement, the reasons and the situation in the country that prevent return. Parveen A. Gaffar spoke on the situation of Sri Lankan displaced person including both refugees as well as the internally displaced. The main point highlighted was that often there is a necessity to balance the right of return with the situation that is present in the original country. Thingbaijan Dhamen speaking on the situation of Chin refugees spoke on the psychological problems related to return such as the fear of return based on the possibility of re-displacement after return. In this instance he aid, the right to return remains a potential right than a real right. Eva Saroch presented a conceptualized notion of the right to return in terms of the “space” they return to, the concept of “home” and the “memories” they return to. It was also questioned as to who has the right to return and whether they return to a common cultural space. The issue of mental borders was raised. Kobita Chakma spoke of the right to return in relation to the situation of the Chittogong Hill Tract refugees. The availability of land to return to was highlighted as the key issue that is faced by this group as the land that they were forcibly evicted from has been handed over to other communities for resettlement leading to the change in the demography of the state and the disappearance of “home”.


The roundtable on Recourse, Gender, and Forced Migration was moderated by Ishita Mukherjee, director Women’s Studies Research Center, Calcutta University. The questions posed by her were: what are the manifests of interfaces of the forced migration? She said when women are subjected to violence we often take it for granted. What are the kinds of resistance to this violence that we see everyday and how does it occurs? What are the outcomes of this resistance? What do historical experiences show us? Sanjoy Barbora, a research student of social anthropology brought field experiences from Assam.  He said that although indigenous had their autonomous councils but that is hardly adequate. They have special rights regarding property laws, costumes and other. It looks like autonomy but it has its limitation. Tribal society doesn’t have a concept of private land. In their traditional lives they have the concept of community/collective land rather than individual/private property rights. Land use in these areas much different. It’s found that women have a greater saying in matters where there is community land. But present inheritance rules often disposses them.


Madhuresh Kumar explored the way the displacement movement affected women. He analysed the role of women in the Narmada Vally, who were opposing the building of dams as it led to large scale displacement because. Dana Clark spoke about the human rights and environment particularly about the tribal people who are displaced because of dam building. She questioned whether involvement of the World Bank help in social equity? Who benefits and who loses in these projects funded by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank? Like dams, coalmines and deforestations also affect the tribal people. These projects are statistically often placed in area where people have less political or economical rights. Where indigenous people are or where the government has a lack of control and it triesto ‘militarise’ and control the area. Often in cases of loss of land compensation comes in the form of a small plot of land in a settlement area and a one off cash payment. Her main argument was that the state wants to displace people and control land and resources from Meghna Guhathakurta spoke about the gendered language of resistance to displacement. She said sex work is not illegal in Bangaladesh, by the law though girls under the age of thirteen are not allowed to work in the sex industry. But in cases of lack of livelihood women are allowed to work participate in work. The discussions mainly was around the question if globalization really opens spaces for women or just worsens women opportunities and make them poorer. The other issue raised was the dynamism of women’s resistant movement and its implications on women’s empowement.


The panel discussion on Borders, Ethnicity, Violence and Displacement in the Northeast included Monirul Hussain, Paula Banerjee, Ranabir Samaddar, Rautz Gunther, Deeptima Massey and Willem Van Schendel acted as the moderator). The session was held in collaboration with the Department of History, Presidency College, Kolkata.  In the discussions Deeptima Massey highlighted the problems which beset North East including reasons for insurgency. Emphasis was on conflict induced displacement explaining through the history of disasters and history of violence which the region is inflcited with. The talk ended with a propelling question whether conflicts in north east are actually insoluble. Ranabir Samaddar explained how violence is becoming an inevitable problem within north east. Reorganisation of the area is not happening. There is an emergence of modern administrative units that has left a permanent and social impact on the region. Further, conflict and violence need to be studied in greater detail. The way agrarian mode of production changed has to do with violence. Much needs to be done to study the violence in the region. Population movement is an important governmental task and needs to be linked with violence.


Munirul Hussain spoke on how state violence has created crime against humanity. There is no end to insurgent violence especially in the Naga hills. Children and women have remained main victims of this violence. Cross fire between the state and insurgent has been rendering common people more vulnerable to suffering. Apart from violence, environmental degradation including river bank erosion is also common with the region. This is resulting in making peasants displaced from their land, displaced and isolated from their homeland. Paula Banerjee emphaised that the borders in north east are not clearly demarcated. The region has become an important conflict zone in India. Nagas are demonised in discussions. What happens to women in this violence was an open question raised. Further, it was debated how the security paradigm is being used to control women in the region. Because of the inability to control population it is leading to a gamut of problems. No one is following the law and women are being pushed out of the region because of their own sexuality. Is it justifiable?


Rautz Gunther did a presentation on immigration in European Union. Most migration problems are arising at new EU. Statistics on migrants as compared to the world population are increasing. A case study of Italy was given as well. Migrants are largely coming from Romania into Italy. 60 per cent of them are living in North Italy. The motivation of migration for 66 per cent people has been work. Half of the migrants have been Christians, other Muslims and Buddhists. These have been largely temporary work migrants.


Willem Van Schendel made a few points by stating firstly, that the word tribe as enshrined in the Indian Constitution has long been discredited in social science discourse. Secondly, the history of the South Asia is very India Centric. It is essential to recognise that the hills of India were as important as hills of Burma. Thirdly, he said we need to see whether India is a problem for north east or north east is a problem for India? The open discussions included question posed by students of the college such as whether we can borrow lessons from EU to solve problems in South Asia, why are jobs not there for locals in the north eastern region of India, what are the reasons for insurgency in the region, and has there been any positive action taken to solve problems relating to violence in the region?


The panel discussion on Violence, Trafficking and Forced Labour – Perspectives on Durable Solutions was moderated by Vanita Sharma. The first speaker was Josh de Wind.  He spoke of the use of the Human Rights perspective while undertaking development projects in Sierra Leone and in East Africa.  He went into the historical background of the causes of the conflict in Sierra Leone.  When the conflict got over, the Social Science Research Council initiated development through the Human Rights approach.  What has been observed is the inconsistency between local customs and Human Rights Laws.  On the one hand, human rights are inherent in social rights, whereas Human Rights Laws are drafted by the state.  What is required is a set of codifications that are flexible. The second speaker was Anindit who spoke on trafficking in women. He started off by relating the story of a little girl named Shobha who was duped into the flesh trade by a local contractor who took advantage of her lack of protection exacerbated by the death of her father.  There are thousands of Shobhas meeting the same fate.  He referred to the factors leading to trafficking such as poverty as well as the lack of community protection. The third speaker was Linda Chhaakchuak who spoke about the displacement in the North East.  To understand this we need to go into the history of the region.  What have been severely hit by colonialism and globalization have been the small communities.  Displacement is in-built into the power structure, she reiterated.  There is a need for a safety net. The last speaker Oishik discussed about the various lacunae in the laws and acts related to forced migration particularly trafficking.  He pointed out that the definition of rehabilitation and immoral in the Act against Immoral Trafficking is problematic.  Questions related the role of families in aiding and abetting trafficking and the role of communities such as the Khasi community in addressing marginalisation of women. 


The panel discussion on Administrative of Care How Careful Care Givers Are? Was moderated by Professor Subhas Ranjan Chakrabroty. The panellists included Itty Abraham, K.C. Saha, Rev. Joshua Raja and K.M. Parivelan.  The first speaker was Itty Abraham who looked at the whole regime of protection in the form of a historical narrative. Care has two meanings – to take notice and to protect. The Nanson office was displacement related to home in 1938. The geo-politics of space enters the discourse where territoriality is given emphasis. Refugees need a space in order to work. This is when the assimilation discourse reigns supreme. The threat of the refugee has to tackled by what Itty Abraham says disarming the minds of refugees. He stressed on the agency of refugees – the choice to stay or leave. There is a problem of belonging and the problem of freedom. The refugee camp is not a site of refuge alone but a site of battleground, another space within the context of state, where sovereignty is not a clear idea.


K. C. Saha was the next speaker who mentioned the four categories that have be kept in mind while understanding the refugee situation


  1. Right to life
  2. Right related to sustenance of life
  3. Right related to development
  4. Right related to status of refugees


Rev. Joshva Raja spoke about refugees and their right to communicate. Parivelan spoke generally about the Sri Lankan refugees and also made a critique of the working of the UNHCR in India.  The arbitrariness of the UNHCR with regard to the treatment of refugees was highlighted.  He felt the need to have at least a national legislation on refugees in order to regularize the treatment of refugees.


In all these interactive sessions course participants were encouraged to participate.  Since most of these sessions were held in different colleges and universities of Kolkata students and other civil liberties organisations were able to participate in these sessions.  All of these sessions generated lively debates and many opposing viewpoints were tabled and discussed.  Some participants particularly wanted to discuss the issue of durable solutions.  The participants in these sessions were encouraged to highlight the gender concerns. Special attention was given to the voices of vulnerable and victim communities. These sessions proved to be a high point of the course and most participants recommended such sessions in all future courses.


12. Images and Films

It is often said that images convey much more than what words do. It was such an occasion on December 10 and 12, 2004 when A F Mathews, Assistant Professor, MICA, Ahmedabad showed photographs and films from various parts of world and brought alive the complex relationship between ethnic and communal conflict, violence and the indomitable human spirit of resistance.


The images of violence, destruction, and displacement from conflict-ridden areas of Yugoslavia coupled with insightful observations, factual and analytical comments from Mathews were an eye opener to the participants. The complex relationship between ethnicity, religion, and fascism was brought live to the discussion room through the images of destruction of Mostar bridge, Stolac township, Tahadija and Arnadija mosques, National Library at Sarajevo and many others. They showed how often the symbols become selective targets in times of conflict. The mutilated and destroyed images of houses, streets, public and religious buildings showed how often nonliving things like these come to life and get identified with certain communities and are selectively targeted and destroyed. The formations of identities take different meanings during times of conflict and were captured through these images in interesting ways.


Mathews’ commentary drew parallels with the genocide and selective killings of minorities in Yugoslavia and Gujarat in India very recently. He emphasised the fact that it is important to look at the patterns, and the language in which violence is being depicted through images and represented in media. One need to take in account the planning and precision through which the attacks are being targeted towards one particular community. For example, the selective targeting of property, religious and public buildings, and women, men and children of one communities in almost all the conflicts and this has not changed from fascist regimes in Italy and Germany or Yugoslavia or for that matter riots in Mumbai or Gujarat.


The images from the times of fascist Germany drew home the relationship between culture and fascism. The various images used by the photographers of that time especially appointed by the propaganda ministry of Hitler’s Germany showed how important it was to establish the cultural homogeneity and hegemony in order to erase the Jewish population. The whole emphasis on the body form, fitness, and completeness, creation of roles for individuals, and their place in society ensured that state could completely dictate the terms to its citizens and create a following for its fascistic ideas. These were perfectly captured in the images and films of that time such as ‘Triumph of the Will’, or Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’.


Two films, one Iranian and the other Brazilian, followed the photograph session.  The films depicted the indomitable spirit of humanity to get on with life in difficult circumstances and fight for its survival against all odds.


The Iranian film captured brilliantly the life of a woman called ‘fehreshte’ during the Cultural Revolution and the conflict between her ‘self’ and ‘society’, between ‘traditions’ and ‘modernity’ and more important her challenge to patriarchy. The film explores the relationship between religion, patriarchy and state. It brilliantly captures the desire and aspiration of a woman to seek knowledge, to lead life in her own ways against the rigid Islamic traditions, which doesn’t, recognises her existence. Her desires are met with the answers, ‘you are not a human being ?’. ‘Yes, I love him like a prisoner loves his jailor,’ sums up the position of women in difficult marriages where they are subject to constant insult and torture, physical and mental both. Ultimately when she moves out of the marriage, her spirit has been battered to such an extent that she says, ‘I am free like a bird who has no wings’. Apart from marvellously capturing the position of women within the homes it also captures the relationship of women vis-à-vis state and how laws repress women. The film ended with so many questions to think that no body wanted to discuss them right away and went on to reflect on them through out the course.


The other Brazilian film made an important contribution in depicting life in Brazil but could not reach the marvellous representation of issues which were at stake throughout the course and discussion during the course. However, it did provide an opportunity to peep in to the lives of Brazilian society and the working population through the story of a child and search for his father after his mother passed in an accident.


After the films it was felt that how important it was to include more such films in order to enhance the understanding of the various issues at stake and the contribution they could make in the success of the course.


13. Inaugural and Valedictory Session

The Inaugural Session:


The winter course opened on 1 December.  Lennart Kotsalainen, Chief of Mission in India for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was the Chief Guest.  The Guest of Honour was . Anna-Kaisa Heikkinen, Attache, Embassy of Finland in New Delhi.  Professor Pradip Kumar Bose introduced the programmes of CRG..  The Director of the CRG, Ranabir Samaddar placed the perspective of the course at the outset of the session and traced the history of the growth of the research, training and publication activities of the research group.  He also mentioned the need for holding such a course in South Asia, so that accumulated knowledge in this field could be made accessible to researchers and human rights activists in the region.  Paula Banerjee, the Course Coordinator welcomed the participants, and informed the gathering about the collaboration and support of various institutions, persons and governments that had made the course possible. 


Lennart Kotsalainen spoke of the issues of concern to the UNHCR in view of the global and regional refugee crisis.  He focussed mainly on the refugee situation in South Asia.  He drew attention to the problem of the Bhutanese refugees and the impediments to their return and rehabilitation.  He also reminded the audience that the problem of the Tibetan refugees still exited and the world needed to remember that.  He went on to underline the need for such a course in the region and lauded CRG’s initiative.  Anna-Kaisa Hiekkinen underlined her Government’s commitment to humanitarian concerns and causes and also affirmed support for CRG’s initiatives in this field, especially for the Course on Forced Migration.


Oren Yiftachel, a Faulty at the Department of Geography and Political Science, Ben Gurion University, Israel delivered the key-note lecture.  The lecture was titled “Two Children of Ethnocracy : Partition and Displacement : Reflections from Israel/Palestine” and offered a critical analysis of the links between the world’s political geography, the rise of “ethnocratic” regimes and the persistence of ethnic oppression.  Oren nYiftachel’s argument was that the forces shaping the dominant forms of the world’s spatio-political organisations, namely ethnic control and capital accumulation, have together created two grim consequences – partition and displacement.  Partition and displacement have become the two twin children of the 'ethnocratic' force, namely the drive to 'ethnicize' contested territories, public resources and power structures. Consequently, the internationally accepted principle of ethnic (that is, racist) territorial ‘purity’ has wreaked havoc on the lives of millions in the name of 'the nation-state', the 'homeland' or 'development'. To illustrate his arguments, Professor Yiftachel cited examples from several international cases, and mainly focus on Israel/Palestine – both an arena of a notorious and protracted ethnic conflict, and his own homeland homeland.


The lecture advanced in several main stages. The first detailed the making of the world's political geography and the imposition of absolute state territoriality, putatively in the name of ‘self-determination’. The myth of the nation-state was born and maintained through this geography of power, fueling a major international/colonial enterprise of carving new borders, including the partitions of pre-exiting polities and communal spaces. But the neatly organized and discretely colored world political map never corresponded with the ‘stubborn reality’ of ethnic mix, and became part of a hegemonic discourse of control over minorities and indigenous peoples.


In response to complex ethnic geographies, national elites have developed a range of political regimes, including civic welfare democracies, expansionist ‘ethnocracies’, and murderous racist states. The lecture showed how these elites, driven by new forms of power availed by the post-partition modern state, and later by deepening capitalism and accelerating globalization, have nearly universally sought to impose cultural control over ‘their’ territory, and often beyond. Hence, the 'dark sides' of state building has been the manipulation of ethnic spaces, causing large-scale displacement and protracted conflicts. This was informed by the fantasy -- and international legitimacy -- of 'ethnically pure' polities – that is, the nation-state idea taken to its ‘logical’ conclusion.


This vision has acted like a double-edged sword – it effectively mobilized the masses around the flags of liberty, independence and development, but at the same time diffused the new 'rules of the game', which legitimized the ‘engineering’ of ethnic relations geographies with deadly effectiveness and devastating consequences. Most lethal have been the well-known cases of the Armenians in Turkey, Aborigines in Australia, Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe, and Tutsi in Rwanda. These have taken the ethno-centric spatial imagination to its extreme, but in some ways also ‘consistent’ conclusion.


Notably though, genocide has rarely been the preferred, or ‘feasible’, option for racist regimes. More subtle (yet still oppressive) ‘engineering’ of ethnic relations and geographies have been used, particularly in 'post-partition' societies, such as Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, India or Serbia.  Typically, ethnocratic post-partitioned states have attempted to cement the domination of one ethnic group by marginalizing and fragmenting minority territorial bases, and by excluding the minority from the loci of power. Some exceptions exists, such as Spain, Canada, Belgium, and recently Northern Ireland and Macedonia, demonstrating the positive long-term effects of democratization and devolution, as a way of accommodating minorities in their quest for coexistence with the dominant ethnic-nation.


The lecture then focused on a detailed account of Israel/Palestine. Here the twin children of ethnocracy – partition and displacement -- are alive and kicking.  Oren Yiftachel traced the rise of Zionism on the ruins of European Jewry and disaster of the Nazi holocaust, and the parallel emergence of Palestinian nationalism on the basis of being the (then) majority community in Palestine. It accounts for tumultuous events of 1948 -- the Palestinian ‘nakbah’, when 60% were driven from their homeland and became refugees. The short history of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism has witnessed four main attempts to partition Palestine/the Land of Israel. The consequences of these failed partition attempts have been disastrous to Palestinians, leading to waves of Jewish expansion, ethnic cleansing, the coerced imposition of Jewish ethnocracy of Israel/Palestine and continuous displacement of Palestinians.


Here the lecture concentrated on Israel’s ethnocratic land, settlement and development policies, emphasizing the common thread of Judaization, around which the ethnocratic regime has evolved. The lecture also discussed Palestinian resistance in three key sites: within Israel, in the Occupied Territories, and among exiled Palestinian refugees in the diaspora.


Within Israel, the lecture paid particular attention to the oft-neglected case of the Bedouin community, which has suffered massive displacement and forced resettlement since the late 1940s. It was placed under military rule, and confined into a limited ‘reservation’ area, officially for ‘security’ reasons. During the 1970s Israel began a program of forced urbanization, which was coupled with the appropriation of most Bedouin lands to cause another wave of forced migration. However, about half the Bedouin population has refused to relocate into the planned towns. The state, in turn, has denied these citizens basic services, causing large-scale urban informality, and pervasive poverty and conflict.


The lecture then moved on to account for the recent (now failed) ‘peace’ process. It showed how diplomacy, politics and globalizing economic forces have been thwarted in their drive to repartition Israel/Palestine, by the powerful legacy ethnic geography. Detailed attention was given to the recent events of an attempted ‘Pax Americana’, the eruption of the Palestinian al-Aqsa intifada (uprising) and terror in the heart of Israeli cities, and the construction of the ‘separation wall’, which has deepened the process of ‘creeping apartheid’ now becoming starkly evident in the lands under Israeli control.


Finally, the lecture drew preliminary lessons for the management of ethnic conflict from the trials and tribulations of Israel/Palestine, focusing on the need to ensure justice in accessibility to territory, resources, identity and power. No political stability or lasting peace is ever likely without due attention to redress the enduring twin legacies of partition and displacement.


The Valedictory Session:

The course came to a close on 15 December. The guests of honour were Pirjo Valinoro, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Finland, Roberta Cohen, Co-Director of SAIS-Brookings Institution Programme on IDPs and Carol Batchelor, Deputy Head of Mission, UNHCR, New Delhi.  Professor Subhas Ranjan Chakroborty, the Vice-President of the CRG opened the session.  Carol Batchelor awarded the participants certificates of merit.  In her address she urged the participants to take back the knowledge they had acquired at the course and put it to use in their different fields of work.  Six participants from six countries – Maria Ahlqvist, Shahzada Akram, Parveen Abdul Gaffar, Marnie Lloyd, Vanita Sharma and Oishik Sircar – addressed the gathering on behalf of the participants, and spoke of their impressions and experiences of the course. Pirjo Valinoro addressed the audience underlining the Finnish Government’s support for the Course and also announced renewed support for the course for the next year.


The other highlights of the session were the special lecture “Feminism as a resource in Opposing Xenophobia and Separatism” by Cynthia Cockburn from, the Department of Sociology, City College, London and the Valedictory Lecture “Gender and Migration post 9/11 in North America: Legislating Intolerance and Xenophobia” by Shree Mullay, Director, Mc Gill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women, Mc Gill University.  Ranabir Samaddar, Director, CRG made the closing remarks and Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Member, CRG proposed the vote of thanks. 


The lectures have been reproduced in the next section.


One of the highlights of the closing session was the book release of “IDPs in South Asia and the UN Guiding Principles” by Roberta Cohen.  In her remarks on the book launch Ms. Cohen said “It gives me great satisfaction to launch the book, Internal Displacement in South Asia: the Relevance of the United Nations Guiding Principles, edited by Paula Banerjee, Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury and Samir Das of the Calcutta Research Group, and published by Sage.


The book is the culmination of several years’ research work, undertaken by a group of academics and activists from the different South Asian countries, under the leadership of the Calcutta Research Group, directed by Ranabir Samaddar, in cooperation with the Brookings-SAIS Project on Internal Displacement. The subject of the book is of critical importance to all South Asian countries. At least four million people in the region are uprooted within their own countries by violence, inter-communal strife and human right violations. Many millions more are displaced by natural disasters and development projects. Most are in destitute conditions because they have been forced from their homes, communities and livelihoods with limited access to adequate food, shelter, medicine and employment and vulnerable to all manner of violence. In the words of the United Nations Secretary-General, the uprooted are “the most vulnerable of the human family.”


However, it has only been in the last decade of the 20th century that international attention has focused on the plight of persons displaced within their own countries. Prior to that time, the international community focused almost exclusively on refugees  – persons fleeing across borders in search of protection from persecution and conflict. But by the 1990s with civil wars and internal strife engulfing many countries, humanitarian emergencies began to produce far more internally displaced persons than refugees – at least 25 million in more than 40 countries. With governments frequently unwilling or unable to help their displaced populations, attempts began to be made internationally to create legal and institutional frameworks to address the needs of the internally displaced.


In 1992, the UN Secretary-General appointed a Representative on Internally Displaced Persons who developed, together with a group of legal experts, the first international standards applicable to internally displaced persons -- the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The Principles set forth the rights of internally displaced persons and the responsibilities of governments, insurgent groups and other actors toward these populations. Since their presentation to the United Nations in 1998, an international consensus has begun to develop around how IDPs should be treated, with the Principles serving as a benchmark for monitoring and evaluating their plight.


This volume that we launch today looks at internal displacement in the South Asia region in light of the Guiding Principles. It aims to further understanding of a complex problem that has humanitarian, human rights, political, economic and security dimensions. The chapters cover the subject broadly – analyzing displacement caused by conflict and communal strife as well as displacement caused by natural disasters and development projects. Some chapters extend to the trafficking of displaced women and children, and a special chapter is devoted to the impact of displacement on women. There is also a chapter on the Guiding Principles and their relevance to the South Asian experience. The book is a comprehensive look at displacement in seven South Asian countries and I believe the first of its kind devoted exclusively to internal displacement.


Most importantly, it is a collective research effort and more than a book, it has been a process, which has brought together migration specialists and non-governmental representatives from the different South Asian countries to deepen their own understanding of the problem and by means of their research to expand awareness of and attention to the subject in their region. Working on the book has therefore created a cadre of experts in the region who will now integrate the subject more fully into their courses and into their work with non-governmental groups.


Finally, this volume is testimony to the important role that the academic and non-governmental community can play in addressing a national problem. After all, national responsibility for internal displacement extends beyond governments and encompasses civil society as well. The Calcutta Research Group is an excellent example of the work that a small group of scholars can do to expand knowledge about displacement, influence policy on the subject, develop local capacity and overall contribute to the growing global effort to create a more predictable, effective and humane system for dealing with situations of internal displacement.  It is my profound pleasure to join this dynamic and vibrant group in bringing this book to national and international attention.”


And I can think of no more fitting place to launch the book than at the Winter Course on Forced Migration which is composed of such an intelligent and engaged group with strong humanitarian values. The book should prove useful to the students and faculty as a springboard for further research, further analysis and further ideas in an important new area of study.


14. Key-note Lectures


Gender And Migration Post 9/11 In North America:

Legislating Intolerance And Xenophobia


Shree Mulay

McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women


December 15, 2004, Valedictory Lecture

Second Course on Forced Migration

Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group




In this paper, I argue that the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 became the raison d’etre to enact many laws and treaties that severely curtail the movement of people in search of a better life and keep them trapped in precarious and often dangerous situations. Specific examples are given from a Canadian context to illustrate how these new laws affect refugees and immigrants. These laws, taken together, create a climate of intolerance towards refugees and immigrants, especially people of colour resulting in racist attacks, endangering their physical and psychological security. Xenophobia and intolerance tear away at the fabric of the Canadian multicultural society.  Canada is by no means unique in its response to 9/11 and indeed it is not the worst amongst the nations of the first world. However, when the rights of marginalized people are trampled upon to secure an imagined security, the rights of all citizens are at risk. This is why it is urgent that repressive laws such as the Anti-Terrorism Act be opposed vigorously by those who cherish democracy to ensure that Canada does not become a satellite nation of the big brother to the South.



In discussing Gender and Migration post 9/11 in North America, the term gender instead of women has been chosen deliberately because in the post 9/11 world, it is very obvious that treatment of men and women refugee claimants from the developing world, in particular from South Asia, have been very different. Yet the end results have been similar; deportation, and return to the country that the refugee claimant first landed to yet again face incarceration and deportation. Our research done on behalf of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre was primarily conducted with South Asian women refugee claimants who entered Canada prior to 2001 but whose cases were adjudicated after the events of 2001. We also interviewed immigration lawyers, community workers and refugee support organizations (A fuller account of the study is available in a forthcoming chapter titled “No Sanctuary for Asylum Seekers: Impact of Canada’s Refugee Policies on South Asian Women Claimants in Quebec” by Laila Malik and Shree Mulay in “Gender and Human Security Issues” edited by Rosalind Boyd).


1. Systematic persecution of South Asians and Arabs Post-9/11:

Immediately following the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers, as many as 1,200 Muslim non-U.S. Citizens were arrested and incarcerated by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). They were secretly detained for months, without charges followed by closed hearings. Of those arrested, 752 were charged with immigration violations; majority of the detainees were from Pakistan (Presumption of Guilt: Human Rights Abuses of Post-September 11 Detainees, Human Rights Watch, Volume 14, No. 4, August 2002), including one who died in custody.  By July 2002, not a single one of them had been charged with acts related to terrorism. The intention was obvious; the US Department of Justice singled out individuals for questioning for links to terrorist activity based on little more than nationality, religion and gender. In fact the Department of Justice acknowledged that most of the persons detained in the course of the September 11 investigation – the so-called “special interest” detainees – were of no interest to its anti-terrorist efforts. Despite this, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced (Announcement made during a press conference held at the U.S.-Canada border in Niagara Falls., November 7, 2002) heightened security measures at U.S. borders, including the introduction of the National Security Entry-Exit Registry System.  Up to that date, 14,000 people from 112 countries had been subjected to lengthy interrogations, fingerprinting and being photographed; 1,400 (10%) of those arrested were Canadians.  Of the total number of people targeted, 172 had been arrested for various reasons, but only one for reasons “related to terrorism. Radio-Canada reported that in the first two weeks of November, 2002 100 Canadian citizens of foreign origin had lodged formal complaints with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) after being  subjected to “special scrutiny”  by U.S. immigration agents.  As a result of this situation, thousands of Canadian citizens are now afraid to travel to or go through the United States. Indians who have traveled to the United States in the past year must have had the humiliating experience of being photographed and finger-printed at the airport like any common criminal.


In Canada, although the response was muted, several hundred Pakistanis and Algerians, waiting for their hearing by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) were refused refugee status despite compelling evidence of religious persecution of Shiia Muslims. The US media charged that the Canadian refugee system was very lax; it allowed criminals and terrorists to acquire landed immigrant status very easily and thus the US borders became porous and could be penetrated by undesirable elements such as “Islamic Terrorists”. Subsequent investigations on the attack on the World Trade Centre did not turn up a shred of evidence that any of the Al Qaeda operatives had entered the US through Canada. Only Mohammad Ali Ressam, a Canadian immigrant from Algeria, who had been caught crossing the border near Vancouver in 2000, was linked to the Al Qaeda.


Perhaps the most blatant example of xenophobia was the Maher Arar case; Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent, was arrested in the US while on a visit there. He was deported to Syria by the INS; he was tortured and kept in jail for over a year until public appeals in Canada lead to diplomatic intervention by the Canadian Government and he was sent back to Canada. A public enquiry revealed that the RCMP had passed on information on Arar to the FBI suggesting that he may be able to provide information on some individuals being sought by the FBI. Revelations of collusion between the RCMP and FBI are now under investigation because very likely information on hundreds of people has been exchanged. The fact that Maher’s citizenship status was not respected and indeed the Canadian State itself appeared to have colluded in his deportation to Syria, is troubling because national and religious affiliation has been the sole basis for not respecting Maher’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms What is more distressing is that sovereignty of Canada itself is in question.  This notion is best captured in the following statement:


“September 11 marked a decisive break in respect for human rights. In the name of a “just war” against terrorism, many infringements were suddenly permitted – the defenders of civil liberties have certainly good reason to be worried. The general trend of our society towards increasing respect for the individual and individual freedoms has been brought to a brutal halt. And there is every indication that we are slowly drifting towards what appears like more and more of a paranoid police state”.


Ignacio Romonet, le Monde diplomatique (Quoted from the opening submission of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group to the “Commission of Inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Maher Arar”.)


Within the course of one year both Canada and the United States passed many pieces of legislation that promote paranoia and severely curtail civil liberties. Our contention is that this has been possible because fear has been used as a tool to push through bills that are very repressive and an anathema to a liberal social democratic society. Some examples are given below.


2. Safe Third Country Agreement and Refugee Claimants

In December 2002 the US Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge and the then Deputy Minister John Manley signed what has come to be known as the Safe Third Country Agreement  despite the protests of 100 Canadian and American human rights and refugee support organizations.  Earlier in 1995 when the two governments had tried to bring in such an agreement it was abandon it because of public opposition. The fear that terrorists would enter the country as refugee claimants, fanned by the media, made it easy to garner public support for such an agreement.  The agreement will block approximately 15,000 asylum seekers – about 35 per cent of the total – from entering Canada per year.


The Safe Third Country agreement stipulates that asylum seekers must file their claim in the country they land in, and if they travel through the US to file a claim in Canada they must be returned to the US. The problems with the Safe Third Country Agreement are many; these include discrepancies between Canadian and American procedures with respect to detention, gender-based claims and due process for asylum seekers. According to many, groups, the treatment of asylum seekers in the US does not meet “minimum standards” of human rights and refugee protection


During visits to the Laval Immigration Prevention Centre near Montreal, it became obvious to us that a great many South Asians seeking asylum in Canada spend a few hours or a night in transit in the US en route to Canada. Many of these individuals qualify for and are accepted as refugees in Canada. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, such individuals would be summarily returned to the US, where they would face a refugee system which has long been criticized by human rights groups for violating international human rights and refugee protection standards (See, “USA: Lost in the Labyrinth”, Amnesty International Index: AMR 51/051/99), and which has a recent record of special discrimination against individuals of South Asian and Arab nationality or origin (Amnesty International’s Concerns Regarding Post September 11 Detentions in the USA,  March 14, 2002). Given the climate of xenophobia directed against Muslims in the United States, returning them to that country constitutes refoulement, which violates Canada’s commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention.


An important concern has been the differential treatment of women refugee claimants between the two countries. This has major repercussions for women seeking asylum.


2.1 Gender-Based Persecution

In 1993, Canada adopted guidelines for gender-based claims in recognition of the fact that while the language of the Convention refugee definition is gender neutral, in reality  the definition of asylum seekers was largely based on the experiences of male refugee claimants. Therefore, the Guidelines sought to recognize forms of harm feared by women claimants. Men were more likely to be persecuted for their activities in the public sphere: while women also feared being sexually assaulted; thus persecution in the private realm of home and family was also recognized by the Guidelines. These have advanced the cause of gender equity for women seeking a safe place for themselves and their children. Since 1993 when Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) Guidelines recognizing gender-based persecution were introduced, 1,770 gender-related cases were finalized, 954 (54%) were accepted, 556 (31%) were rejected and 260 (15%) were withdrawn, abandoned, discontinued or otherwise finalized (Women and Armed Conflict, Canada and the United Nations General Assembly: Special Session: Beijing +5: Fact Sheets).


By contrast, even though the INS and international instruments now officially recognize gender-based violence as human rights violations, most asylum adjudicators in the United States apply a restrictive interpretation of the international definition of a refugee entitled to protection. Women with asylum cases based on gender-based violence are often denied protection in the United States.  The University of California-based Centre for Gender and Refugee Studies has stated that it is “aware of numerous compelling cases in which egregious denials — in contradiction of the controlling law — have been issued.” (Background on Gender and Asylum Studies, Centre for Gender and Refugee Studies, University of California, Hastings College of the Law)  


The regulations themselves admit that they “will likely have differential impacts by gender and with respect to diversity considerations. Canada and the United States have different approaches to the treatment of claims based on gender-based persecution and in relation to those who arrive and make a refugee claim without appropriate documents (Regulations of the Safe Third Country Agreement, as pre-published in Part One of the Canada Gazette on October 26, 2002).


Based on the Canadian government’s open recognition of discrepancies between Canadian and US treatment of gender-based claims for asylum, we consider the proposed Agreement to be a flagrant breach of Canada’s core values, its commitment to CEDAW, and its reputation as a world leader in women’s refugee protection. Most importantly, it signals Canada’s abandonment of women fleeing gender-based persecution, many of whose lives will as a result hang in the balance.


2.2 Mandatory detention and expedited removal

A clear difference between the US and Canada is the manner in which refugee claims are handled. In Canada prior to the recent changes; an immigration officer is obliged to accept the refuge claim even if no supporting documents are presented at the time of arrival as long as identity papers are available. In contrast, “Under expedited removal an immigration officer may determine that an arriving alien is inadmissible because the alien engaged in fraud or misrepresentation or because the alien lacks proper documents. The officer can order the alien removed without further hearing or review unless the alien states a fear of persecution or an intention to apply for asylum”.


The UNHCR, Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and the US-based Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights have expressed general concern over INS Expedited Removal proceedings, under which non-citizens arriving in the US with fraudulent or no travel documents are subject to mandatory detention and expedited removal. According to the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights,


Many asylum seekers arrive without valid passports or visas because they have escaped under duress or their papers have been confiscated - like many Jews attempting to flee Europe during World War II, or like the Kosovar Albanians who were stripped of their identification papers as part of the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign. Many refugees -- victims of torture or rape, or those escaping wartime horrors -- find it extremely difficult to speak of their experiences immediately upon arrival. Inadequate translation often makes communication even more difficult. In such conditions, mistaken deportations are inevitable. (Action Alert, Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights)  


But under U.S. immigration law, asylum seekers are also subject to “mandatory detention.” According to human rights documentation in the United States, those who are not removed are often detained in prison-like conditions for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. On any given day approximately 4,000 asylum seekers are locked behind bars in the United States, in conditions that are as harsh, and sometimes even harsher, than those of convicted criminals (ibid).


Expedited Removal and Mandatory Detention policies have special implications for women. The CCR has observed that in many parts of the world, Birth, marriage and death certificates are not necessarily issued Identity and relationships are established in other ways, such as the testimony of witnesses. An insistence on identity documents discriminates against people from such parts of the world, and in particular against certain sections of the population least likely to have documents, i.e. women, rural people and youth (Refugees And Identity Documents, Canadian Council for Refugees, October 1996).


We too have found while working with South Asian women asylum seekers and new immigrants in Montreal reflects this reality. The majority of these women, especially those from rural areas do not have birth certificates, marriage certificates or other kinds of documents. The documents they have are usually sworn affidavits that are not readily accepted by the INS. We have also seen that when women flee they are less likely to have these documents in their possession because in many families the male head of the household maintains control of family records.


2.4 More and higher risk smuggling

Both the CCR and Amnesty Canada raised concerns that the proposed Agreement will force individuals who want to claim asylum in Canada to rely more on the services of people smugglers, in higher risk operations. The dangers to which smuggled people are exposed are well known to both the Canadian and US governments. Both governments have made international commitments to combat the phenomenon, and have spent a great deal of energy and resources to this end.


While there is increasing documentation of the sexual exploitation endured by many trafficked women, there is still very little information on the experiences of smuggled women. However, our continuing work in the area suggests that smuggled women are extremely vulnerable to gender-based exploitation by their smugglers. To date, most of the South Asian women asylum seekers that we have interviewed who have used the services of people smugglers have engaged in ‘deceptive’ migration (i.e. faulty travel documents). The restrictions of the agreement will push asylum seekers from relatively safer means of passage, to more ‘clandestine’ means, which are both more expensive and more hazardous (e.g. being locked in the back of a truck or ship container).


Despite the protests mounted by civil society organizations, the Safe Third Country Agreement came into effect on December 5, 2004 thus bringing Canada closer to complete harmonization on refugee claimants with the United States


Another area that harmonization is being sought is in the area of Immigration rules; again 9/11 speeded the process of pushing through legislation that is more restrictive and makes it difficult for people from developing countries to seek asylum in Canada.


3. Immigration and Refugee Protection Act:

On June 28, 2002, Canada replaced a 25 year old immigration law with the so-called Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).  Previous attempts to reform the Act had not succeeded but 9/11 made it possible for the Bill to sail through the Parliament with a brand new name that implied that the law was there to “protect” immigrants and refugees. However, this was far from the truth because overnight, the process of obtaining immigration or refugee status became enormously difficult. 


South Asians (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) make up the second largest visible minority group in Canada, representing 2.4% of the population; however, 29% of people who identify themselves as South Asians are Canadian-born. There were 57,935 South Asians in Montreal during the last Census (Census 2001, Statistics Canada website, of whom 30,820 were men and 27,125 were women, out of an overall population of 3,380,640. Statistics from Citizenship and Immigration Canada indicate that women from South Asia constitute one of the largest groups of recent refugee claimants to Canada.


Individuals seeking asylum in Canada can either apply from abroad or make their application from within Canada. However, in order to be admissible for selection from abroad, applicants must meet “settlement admissibility” criteria, which call for educational and professional qualifications that immediately disqualify a large number of women.  Citizenship and Immigration Canada runs a Women at Risk program, which waives the economic admissibility criterion, however this program has a notoriously low acceptance rate. Therefore, even before women come to Canada, they are filtered out of the refugee acceptance process. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada statistics, only about half as many women as men were selected for refugee sponsorship from abroad between 1999 and 2001. Yet it is well know that women and children in refugee camps constitute 80 per cent of the world’s refugee population.

Gender-specific eligibility criteria and bureaucratic barriers to the refugee selection process from abroad force asylum seekers to seek alternative – albeit extremely perilous – means of reaching Canada. Many women arrive in Canada with the help of “informal agents” and the so-called “immigration consultants” help them file their claim once they arrive. Quebec receives the second highest number of refugee claimants in Canada.  For the past three years, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India have all been within the top ten source countries of refugees in Canada.


The IRPA has essentially mandated that refugee claimants must have valid identity papers or be kept in detention. Their claim must be heard within five days and a single immigration and Refugee Board Judge may make a decision. The Appeals process also has been curtailed and there is no other recourse. Without going into the specific details suffice it to say that the most common complaint we heard amongst the community workers and lawyers was of the sharp decrease in refugee acceptance rates and the increase in immigration-related incarceration. In 1989, the overall acceptance rate of refugee claimants in Canada was 89%; by 2003 it had halved. The majority of South Asian women refugee claimants we interviewed had their claims rejected.  This brings the Canadian IRPA much closer in line to the US immigration laws.


4. Anti-Terrorism Act and other Related Bills:

Bill C-36 was introduced in parliament in 2002 and it passed through the Parliament and the Senate very swiftly without much opportunity to mount a campaign about the fundamental anti-democratic nature of the bill. According to the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), Bill C-36 amended twenty other laws, including the Criminal Code, and enacted the Charities Registration (Security Information) Act. Bill C-36 is similar to POTA in India and the Patriot’s Act in the US. It is repressive and gives far-ranging rights to CSIS, RCMP and other law enforcement agencies to arrest and withhold due process from such individuals on the grounds of threat to security.


 Even prior to Bill C-36, legislation had been introduced representing an unprecedented expansion of state power to fight organized crime; however, its scope was much broader than organized crime.  For example, in 2001, Bill C-24 created an exemption from criminal liability not only for police, but also for agents of the police.  The previous year, Bill C-22 received Royal Assent, creating a new federal agency called the Financial Analysis and Transaction Reporting Centre; it required civilians, including lawyers bound by solicitor client confidentiality, to report on’ “suspicious transactions”. (Following a series of constitutional challenges, this particular clause was recently removed from what is now the Proceeds of Crime Act.  The obligations of lawyers under the Act are also being reconsidered in light of the bar’s ethical obligations to its clients.)  


Under the aegis of Bill C-36, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, has created a data base to capture information on the foreign air travel of all Canadians.   The data bank, announced in October 2002, was authorized by Bill C-23, Customs Act amendments.  It gave the CCRA power to obtain information collected by airlines as a result of the Advance Passenger Information/Passenger Name Record Initiative.  Originally, the information was to only be retained for a 24-hour period but a Fact sheet on the CCRA web site in October 2002 confirmed that “CCRA customs enforcement data is currently kept for 6 years.”


The U.S. supports collection of such information under the Smart Border Action Plan. All assurances that the data base will not be misused; there is fear that the information might be shared with security agencies and with other countries. Indeed, the possibility of the CCRA’s data bank being integrated into the Total Information Awareness System presently being developed as part of the U.S. Homeland Security Project is very real. 


That is not all, Bill C-17, Public Safety Act, is presently being examined by a legislative committee of the House of Commons, and would amend 23 existing Acts.  It contains provisions for personal information to be collected by airlines and shared with Canadian Security Information Service (CSIS), RCMP, other police forces and various government agencies and with foreign governments, for purposes that extend far beyond air safety and national security.  In fact these measures expand the powers of the police and government to monitor the movements of its citizens much along the lines of “big brother” in the George Orwell novel “1984”. Moreover, Bill C-18, presently before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act which would allow revocation of citizenship of naturalized citizens based on the assessment of CSIS and RCMP that the person is a threat to “national security”.  This revocation could occur without consultation, disclosure of evidence, independent review or the opportunity to appeal a decision.   A similar breach of due process is a feature of Bill C-36, which allows individuals and organizations suspected of terrorist links to be placed on a list, and then subjected to very severe measures. 


Electronic surveillance and monitoring by police and security forces of all e-mail communications and internet surfing is being considered.  Other proposals suggest mandating internet service providers to develop capacity to intercept and report on all electronic communications. The non-legislated bilateral agreements with the United States such as the Smart Border Declaration, signed in June 2002, which calls for co-ordination and information sharing by Canadian and U.S. police and intelligence services.  The declaration also requires both countries to “collaborate” in “managing refugees” and in moving toward the harmonization of immigration and visa policies. 


Each of these legislative packages is drastic and unwarranted.  Taken together they represent a serious erosion of civil rights, especially with respect to due process and right to privacy.  The overall thrust of such measures has been denounced by civil and human rights experts across Canada, including the federal Privacy Commissioner and several of his provincial counterparts.


5. Resisting Repression and Curtailment of Civil liberties:

Given the bleak terrain that has been painted so far, it would be easy to become despondent and lose hope that the trend towards fascism is inescapable. However, the recent revocation of the POTA in India when the UPA Government fulfilled its election promise offers hope to those who believe that it is possible to resist and bring about change. Two examples come to mind in the Canadian context. The first is a public mobilization campaign by the group “No one is Illegal” which is a collective devoted entirely to developing public awareness campaigns about the plight of refugees in Canada. Large number of community-based and women’s organizations join each campaign.


The second is a revival of the Sanctuary Movement, which was first started by various church groups in Canada and the US during the Vietnam War and later to help refugees from El Salvador and other Latin American countries. They have taken up the cases of individuals who are being sent back to the US and many churches have given sanctuary to individuals who have been deported. Thus far, the immigration authorities did not enter churches to expel deportees; this may soon change under a new interpretation of the law.


Finally, ICLMG was formed by a coalition of organizations to monitor the laws that affect civil liberties such as the Anti-Terrorism Act. They analyze the implications of each bill and develop campaigns around it. They have taken the lead in calling for “greater, rather than lesser accountability where proposed laws would candidly compromise key rights and where, as a result, misuse is inherently more likely.“



Post 9/11, the racial profiling and registering of residents based on country of origin, religious background and/or gender, and many other related initiatives, threatens to undermine Canadian values and constitutional guarantees, as well as national and international human rights. Some people believe that weakening legal safeguards and trampling on human rights will make us safer.  In fact, though, we are made safer by laws and processes that guarantee respect for everyone’s rights.


The Canadian Government has bowed to U.S. pressure and brought Canadian laws in conformity with theirs. It is quite evident that many Americans also consider that their essential liberties and constitutional guarantees are being threatened.  Harmonization between US and Canadian laws to build Fortress America is profoundly a violation of the rights and protections of Canadians as embodied in Canada’s Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  We echo the words of ICLMG in their call for “immediate restitution of due process in all judicial procedures and for the creation of a Parliamentary mechanism to examine and to oversee the combined effect of all the legislation and other measures (present and future) that form part of Canada’s anti-terrorism agenda”


Drawing Lines, Erasing Lines:

Feminism As A Resource In Opposing Xenophobia And Separatism


Lecture for valedictory session of the course ‘Forced Migration, Racism, Immigration and Xenophobia’ Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group

Calcutta, India.  Dec 15 2004.


It’s a great privilege to be asked to join the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group for the last day of your course on Forced Migration.  I would like to try and bring a perspective from other places and other times on one factor that occurs in different ways in most conflicts and forced movements of people: and that is the political manipulation of identity. On your course you’ve been adressing mainly the humanitarian issues in displacement, I shall be looking more at certain political and social processes that lead up to displacement, and that flow from it.


I’ve called this talk Drawing Lines, Erasing Lines. In forced migrations people have been literally driven across a line of some kind, have they not – across a mountain range or a river that marks a tribal territory, across a national border, across the line that divides a rural area from a city, or through the wire that fences a camp.


But using the word ‘line’ is also my way of inviting us to look at the lines we first draw in our imaginations, the ideas that later call those material lines into play.  Partitions with their checkpoints, the walls of concrete going up in the West Bank today, come to being first in our minds. Refugees, before they were uprooted, were first conceptually placed the wrong side of some social line (a category of persons not wanted, not belonging, dispensable and movable). They’ve been subject to a process of identitification – of differentiation and exclusion from certain categories, the right ethnic group, the right religion, the right economic class - and will eventually have experienced connection and reinclusion into other identity categories labelled ‘refugee’, ‘IDP’.


In the last few years I’ve been doing research in the little island of Cyprus, where a total of around 300,000 so-called Turkish and Greek Cypriots were identified, named, set against each other, and finally driven from their homes by force of arms or by fear, to go and live in – no, to go and constitute, an ethnically pure part of the island.  I’ve been told many personal stories that illustrate these identity processes in painful reality.


I’m going to argue, something that I learned in Cyprus and in other places, that a certain kind of feminist thinking can be very useful to us in addressing these issues of hatred and exclusion of others. This is because the process of the construction of ethnic difference and that of the construction of gender difference as perceived by feminist theory (I shall come to this in a moment) is similar. In both cases a politics identity is involved.


Identity in social science… and in women’s activism


There are a quite a few bodies of literature and learning, and quite a few practices and interventions, in which ideas about identity have been formulated. Each has developed its own particular language for talking about it. Psychologists have one ‘take’ on the subject. Conciliators and conflict managers have another take on it. Philosophers do too. Psychologists and psychiatrists often address identity in the individual client. Conflict transformation specialists address identity in collectivities. Philosophers think in more abstract and general terms about personhood. All these, and a lot more, are valid and interesting ways of making sense of why people differentiate and categorize, define and separate, themselves and others on the basis of collective ‘name’.


My own take on the subject is grounded in sociology and political science. But much more to the point, it comes from empirical research. In the last ten years I’ve done a lot of listening to women, specifically women in women’s groups in war-devastated regions, talking about themselves and each other: Who do they think they are? Where do they feel they belong? Who do they feel safe with? If they feel alienated - why? Who can they form alliances with – with other women? With men? Which women, which men? And on what basis? Most of what I’ve learned about the drawing, crossing and erasing of lines, I’ve learned from them.


The contradictory nature of identity


I think one reason identity is such a rich and rewarding theme for study is that it contains inherent and terrible contradictions. Identity is irreducibly unavoidable in human society. Building a sense of self is a necessary part of every person’s growing to maturity. A functional human being has to put together step-by-step an internal picture of where she stands, what makes her unique, what connects her to others. (Or him.) So identity’s unavoidable - but it’s also an achievement.


The trouble is, we can’t have identity without difference. And difference is both delight and danger. It’s a huge source of pleasure. We fall in love with difference. But we also hate and kill for difference. We seem to have a deep need to belong. But there’s no getting away from the fact that every time I say ‘I belong’ I’m liable to say someone else doesn’t belong. For every self there’s an ‘other’, a non-self. In one sense the process is wonderful – after getting born at all, a baby’s first success as a person is recognizing herself as not part of her mother – as a separate being. The contradiction lies in the fact that we aren’t also born with a guarantee that all identities are going to add up to some harmonious whole.


(Let me say here that I’m going to be drawing on a lot of thinkers and writers in this talk. Some of you may see that I’m paraphrasing William Connolly here. His book Identity/Difference – some of you may know it well - has been enormously important for me. But I’m not going to burden you with references to the writers who’s ideas have helped me.  I’ve got a written version of this talk and have footnoted my borrowings, and referenced the texts, in case anyone wants to read them.)


Transcending the contradiction: thinking about ‘process’


If that was a depressing start on identity, it’s important to add right away: there does seem to be a way of transcending the contradictions. We can do it by shifting to a meta-level, above dichotomy, and working at process. There’s no avoiding making and marking difference between us. The key political question is how we do it, the process, the mode of differentiation. We can achieve transformative change in that. I know, because I’ve seen people doing it.


You do it yourselves, every one of you. Because you work with refugees. You daily confront a group of people with a pejorative label that’s used to differentiate them from you. And for sure you’ve worked hard at the identity process, and learned to see the person in the refugee. You’ve seen the surprise with which he or she hears that name: me? a refugee? I never imagined I would be one of those! So you know the label is useful to tell you about circumstances, but not about selves.


Lines of differentiation vary in their rigidity. Think of ethnicity – it can be intransigent or relatively flexible, relatively permeable or impermeable. It may be sharply dichotomous, a matter of us and them, or involve pluralities so that one sees oneself as belonging to just one among many comparable communities. The other it separates from the self can be a little different or profoundly different, interestingly different or threateningly different, merely alien or a terrifying enemy.


We can define the other as a collectivity who must be reduced, annihilated, expelled, if we’re going to survive. Or we can define them as a collectivity with whom dialogue and engagement is possible and necessary, who may be capable of adapting to our needs if we’re capable of adapting to theirs, whose very survival and flowering is necessary if we ourselves are to be fulfilled. (I like to think that way about men and women.)


That calls for a special kind of political imagination, being able to envisage change. I worked for some time with women in Northern Ireland in an alliance of women across particular ethnic identities that have been politicized, fought over and killed for, for three centuries. I once asked Marie Mulholland, who still called herself an Irish nationalist and republican, how she could retain that identification and yet work constructively with women who called themselves protestant unionists. She said ‘ it’s because I can imagine a future when those names won’t mean the same thing’. She lived identity as provisional, not essential. As contingent necessity, not as truth.


Feminist thought as a tool: gender and other kinds of ‘other’


Feminism at it’s best is a way of thinking that transcends the contradiction of identity.


I realize that need to be very clear here that there isn’t only one kind of feminism. Unfortunately, the term ‘feminism’ is applied to a lot of different theories and practices.  For instance, essentialists who think women are all different from and superior to men call themselves feminists. So do women who want to individually climb the career ladder, in business, the state or the armed services – to get equal with men, uncritical of the world they’re aspiring to join and neglectful of the women they leave behind.


So I have to specify which feminism I’m talking about here. What I mean by it, very briefly, is: a collective feminism, with a project of transformative change, that perceives oppressively interlocking dimensions of power in all of which gender is implicated. It’s a feminism that sees the world we live in as bad for men as well as women, and its institutions not as things we want to get control of but as things we want to dismantle and reshape. That’s the sense in which I’ll be using the word ‘feminism’.


From this perspective, gender differentiation, like ethnic differentition, is a political project that involves drawing a line between people conceived of as types, reductive, inescapable categories. By ‘political’ I mean that it involves power, purpose and collective action. The patriarchal gender order, like the ethno-political order, involves the exploitation of certain material facts together with stories from the past, to dichotomize men and women and to create privilege and dependency.


Feminism (defined this way) is a critique of the politics of gender identity – it perceives that different modes of gender differentiation are possible. We see it in everyday life: we see that different forms of masculinity and femininity exist within a given culture. One may be hegemonic – let’s say the military man, or the successful entrepreneur, others are clearly subordinated or marginal – the ‘subaltern’ masculinity of colonized people, disabled men.


Some masculinity/feminity dyads, couples, may be more dichotomous than others. A man may have a lot invested in a masculinity that’s sharply differentiated from femininity. It could be he’s proud of embodying, or trying to attain, qualities he and others in his culture admire as specifically masculine. On the other hand,  he might startle traditional opinion by distancing himself from the cultural norm of masculinity. He might value quite other qualities he finds in himself. He may look on a woman not as someone complementary to himself but as, actually like him, a member of a category called ‘people’ whose senses-of-self are infinitely varied and mostly don’t fit the binary gender norm.


In our Women in Black group in London we were surprised to hear of other Women in Black groups that include men. But I understand this better having just spent a week with Women in Black in Belgrade. In Serbia, from the start of the Yugoslav wars there was a partnership between the women and some men who refused to fight in nationalist wars. They sheltered deserters and the men in turn helped them in a lot of ways. The men who were ‘let in’ to the circle of WiB, so to speak, were admitted not on the basis of gender but of values – they were those who understood and supported feminism as well as antimilitarism. They saw the patriarchal system as implicated in the pressures on them, as men, to be soldiers, to be loyal to an exclusive masculine and nationalist identity.


Currently there’s a young man living in small room at the back of the WiB office in Belgrade. He’s gay, as it happens. But I learned something important from him and the women he works with. Just as ethnicity, being Serb, Muslim, Croat is not the point in that space (what is the point is being anti-sexist, anti-xenophobic and antimilitarist), so in that space being gay or heterosexual is not the point (the point is being anti-homophobic). It’s the values, not the identities, that count when you choose your allies. I’ll come back to this crucial point.


Identity and sense of self


To think about identity in this way, at a political and social level, in relation to armed conflict, war and expulsions, calls for a particular way of conceiving of identity at the micro-level, the individual self. I need to say a little about this. I’m sure you’re familiar with this kind of thinking. Not so long ago the prevailing belief was that in each human being there’s a pre-existing identity. The task of the child, the parent, the teacher, is to discover this kernel and nurture it. Today we’re more inclined to use a metaphor that works better, to think of the self as a production, something composed like music, written like a book, always in process, never complete.


We (I mean in the social sciences) also emphasize more today that the way the person takes shape and changes over time is relational. There’s no specification of selfhood we can even think of that doesn’t have reference to other people, people we know or people we imagine. And since the world around us involves a lot of different kinds of relationship, the self is very complex, it’s shaped through not one but a whole variety of attachments.


Selfhood also involves a tussle between the choice, the agency, of the individual and the demands and constraints of the social and political world around her. The state models the idea of the proper citizen, the military of a proper man, the church of a proper woman. ‘Models’ isn’t strong enough: they project, propagandize these identities. The advertisers suggest a proper teenage identity, or a desirable middle class lifestyle. Your peers project a sense what you should look like in order to be one of us. Your neighbours or compatriots or fellow churchgoers put about  what kind of a person is worthy of ‘our culture’ or ‘our religion’ or ‘our people’.


In fact, I find it useful to keep the word ‘identity’ for these projections, representations, voices and images, that address, call out to, persuade us from the social world. I prefer to think of my ‘identity’ or yours as simply a ‘sense of self’ – something painfully and provisionally achieved by negotiating, accepting, falling prey to, modifying, rewriting or refusing the names on offer. I don’t think we can ever talk confidently about a person’s identity. We can’t guess how many names and which names go to make up a real-life complicated person. Even less can we make an assumption about how any collective name is actually lived and felt.


How freely do we constitute our selves?


Of course each of us exerts our agency partly free but partly bound. The factors that limit an individual’s agency derive partly from the social formation she lives in. Before a gay rights movement has occurred and been named, a woman can hardly identify as a lesbian. If she calls herself anything it’s likely to be a freak, a misfit, a discontent. 


Likewise, where an ethnic group hasn’t conceived of a national project, it’s members won’t feel a national identification. In the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia before 1989 people today called Bosnian Muslims were much more likely to think of themselves as undifferentiated Yugoslavs. It was the upsurge of aggressive nationalism in Serbia and Croatia that evoked, at a certain definable moment, a responding Bosnian Muslim national project and a Bosniak identity that some, but not all, then took on as part of their changing sense of self. I remember Nudzjema telling me how it was only when she was being attacked as a Muslim she began to feel herself a Muslim.


The factors limiting agency are also a question of individual circumstance. Whether a person’s born into wealth or poverty counts. So does her education and her work, how mobile she is, whether she has children or not (if’s she’s not actually a ‘mother’ she may be less prone to respond to appeals to identify with ‘motherhood’). Contingencies like this will suggest some identifications and rule out others. 


The manipulation of identity in war


In studies of Forced Migration I imagine we’re very often looking at wars, at armed conflict anyway.  And I think maybe we need to think a bit about the extent of the role of identity processes in war. It’s important not to overstate their importance. Especially it’s important not to see identity always as a cause of war, as opposed to a manifestation of it.


First, some wars, or all wars to some extent, are about economic power and control – they’re wars for valuable resources (like oil reserves) and for strategic territories – like vulnerable frontier regions. Other wars, maybe all wars to some extent, are about the power of certain elites who benefit from the political control they have, or hunger for the control they might gain. Identity may have relatively little to do with such wars – at the start anyway.


I think this may be the case in Colombia today. It’s a country where women have begun to organize on an impressive scale to bring an end to violence. In that region there is ethnic difference – there are people of mainly Spanish origin, people mainly of African origin, and indigenous tribes of South America.  But these are not the groups fighting each other. In fact all three groups suffer from it. The violence the women are campaigning against isn’t ethnic, but a three-sided political conflict. There are left-oriented guerrilla forces that originated in a movement for social justice several decades ago but who’ve lost a lot of popular support due to the means they use. There are the paramilitaries, who fight the guerrillas. They’re effectively private armies of the drug barons and serve the interests of the rich and the rightwing.  And third, there’s the state, backed by the USA’s anti-narcotics policy. The Army is brutally repressive and punish the population for the sins of the guerrillas – while some of Army units are suspiciously close to the paramilitaries.


The effects of war on Colombian women are terrible. They say that war has deformed everyday life and is using women’s bodies as booty. The slogans of Ruta Pacifica are ‘Neither war that kills us nor peace that oppresses us’ and ‘We won’t bear sons or daughters for war.’


But you don’t have in Colombia collectivities of different cultures, different religions, different names who hate each other so much that they’ll wage war for their identity alone, for ‘history’. Not at all.  On the other hand the Yugoslav wars do look on the face of it as if they were caused by ethnic identity. But I think even here this kind of story about ‘ancient animosities’, in Yugoslavia and in other places, when you look closer, doesn’t hold up.


I learned a lot about this from a colleague Dubravka Zarkov. I remember being really surprised when I first heard her say “violence is productive”. At first I couldn’t accept it. Surely violence is essentially destructive? But of course! She showed me how the problem for the political elites in Serbia and Croatia had been that there wasn’t enough ethnic difference in Yugoslavia in the 1980s to suit their ambitions – which were that each would control an undisputed nation state inside unchallengeable borders. There was too much intermarriage going on!  How could you create a Serbian state or a Croatian state out of people who not only couldn’t tell an orthodox church from a catholic one but didn’t bother to go to church at all?  How could you make war against Muslims if they won’t read the Koran and go to the mosque? We have to remind them ‘who they really are’. 


The war was designed to do just that. You don’t forget who you are if you’ve seen your friends and relatives massacred in a given name, by people of another given name. The women of the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa who are looking for the bodies of the ten thousand men and 600 women murdered there by extremist Serbs, are not in any doubt now that they are Bosnian Muslims. War is productive. War produces ethnicity.


But what Dubravka and I went on to explore together was how war produces gender too – proper active warrior men, proper victimized submissive women. And how in patriarchal terms it is designed for that, it’s productive in that way too, Simultaneously, while it’s establishing proper ethnic lines, it’s drawing proper gender lines too, through rape for instance. It doesn’t work smoothly. It runs into contradictions, because women sometimes have to take on ‘masculine’ responsibilities when men leave to fight. But the effect of periods of militarization, overall, is to reinforce complementary and unequal gender relations.


So identities may not be the cause of a war but creating ‘otherness’ is almost always among its tools and its products.


The dangers of identity politics


Domination, whether it’s imperialist domination, state authoritarianism, the systemic subordination of women in the patriarchal family, or heterosexism in society, has the tendency to call into being resistance movements that appeal to an identity: anticolonialist insurgencies in the name of a colonized people – let’s say Palestine today; nationalist movements in the name of minorities that aren’t allowed to express their cultures within the state – like Cataluna in Spain; women in a movement of women’s liberation; lesbians and gays, bisexuals and transsexuals protesting against the tyranny of compulsory heterosexuality. There’s a logic and legitimacy to this because the ruling entity has spoken in a universalist language that claims the only truth and obliterates all other speech, a singular experience that’s blind to all other realities.


The trouble with political movements based on the interests of an identity-group is two-fold. First such groups tend to be themselves exclusive of other others. And second they tend to paint themselves into a corner: their identity becomes fixed and essentialized, members of the category become that and only that. The actual fluidity, multiplicity, complexity and ambiguity that would describe our individual senses of ourselves is denied. This applies absolutely as much to the identity group ‘woman’ as an identity group like ‘Irish Catholic’ or ‘Croat’ or ‘Jew’. 


It’s just another expression of the contradiction of identity – we need it but it harms us. The challenge, some feminists would say, is to find ways of recognizing multiplicity within and without the named identity. Women come in a lot of different kinds; we differ in our relation to the family; in our class; in our sexuality; in our cultural attachments. We need to acknowledge this and, while not letting go of the name ‘woman’, not take it as a given either, but take pains to work out what it may mean in any given circumstances.


The same applies in terms of ethnic name: ‘Palestinian’ for instance. In Palestine, for instance, there are both Muslims and Christians, there are more and less exclusive and rigid forms of both religions. There are Beduin and settled Arabs. Some ‘Palestinians’ are ‘women’, and women and men experience the Occupation in gender-specific ways. And there’s not a straightforward dichotomy Israeli Jew v. Palestinian Muslim/Arab, as some might invoke. Because there are Palestinians living in Israel, there are Arab Jews (the Misrahim) and so on.


Dealing with identity in our opposition to war


The most effective kinds of movement then, have to be alliances of very varied people based not on identity but on political and moral values.

And this is the practical issue for us, isn’t it. How do we organize? Identity’s a cause of a lot of suffering and struggle for each of us, and we can see it’s playing a part in the conflicts all around us, and in the lives and chances of the displaced people you work with. So it matters quite a lot how we ‘do identity’ and ‘think identity’ in our political work, our organizations and our strategies for change.


I’ve learned most about this from women in Northern Ireland, who are among the most skilled I’ve met in negotiating identity in the midst of armed conflict. Women of Protestant Unionist and Catholic Republican backgrounds were working together by means of a group process that (as we mentioned earlier in this talk) transcends the contradiction, the trap, of identity. The process involved affirming identity – not denying it but acknowledging it. ‘Yes, I’m a Catholic. I am a Republican and believe in a united Ireland.’ But at the same time others of different identifications would be very careful not to make assumptions about it, not foreclose on it – instead waiting to see which of innumerable meanings this individual might ascribe to the name she acknkowledges, the many ways she might live it, the many ways it might change.


They looked beneath the identity for the surer ground they might find for working together – political and moral values in common, a willingness to acknowledge past injustices. Being women gave them a certain commonality. But that needed deconstructing too. It was the values of equality, inclusion, non-violence and justice in addressing both gender oppression and ethnicized conflict that could enable them to create a reliable alliance.


When I was with the women in Belgrade last month they were organizing a seminar between women living in Serbia and women of both Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Muslim communities living in Bosnia. A lot of their talk together hinged around distinguishing between ‘responsibility’ and ‘guilt’ for ethnicized aggression.  Acknowledging that certain things were ‘done in my name’, in my identity, facing up to them, asking what I might have done to prevent it, they were saying, is important. One woman said, with great honesty, for instance: ‘Only when my husband was to be called up, then I supported his refusal to serve and went out into the street myself. But I ask myself now, why only then, when I was personally affected? Why not before?’


But at the same time it’s not productive to take on collective guilt just because you bear a certain name. It’s not easy to experience to bear the identity of a people that do crimes. Another woman at this seminar said, ‘For years I have been ashamed of saying I am from Serbia, because of collective guilt.’  ‘Guilt’ is terrible to bear and it often leads to more anger and more violence. What these women helped each other to see is that the single most important step out of the trap of collective guilt is to be clear about your values, about your responsibility, and then to  identify the actual criminals who committed atrocities and call for their prosecution.


Why feminism is useful in counteracting xenophobia


The reason I think feminism (defined as I’ve defined it in this talk) is a useful resource in counteracting xenophobia, racism, and aggressive and exclusive versions of nationalism is like this….


In one way, many exclusions and oppressions have a certain similarity, in that they involve an identity process in which the collective self is constituted in opposition to an alien, inferior and dangerous ‘other’. A line has been drawn between the self and that other. Over there, the other side of the line, it has to be contained and subordinated. At the same time any reflections the ‘other’ remaining in the self have to be censored.


In this sense gender relations and ethnic relations are similar and connected. We see it in the way in patriarchy women are arbitrarily defined as (variously) weak, inferior, natural, emotional etc. and categorized as ‘not men’, while the feminine qualities in men are punished. It is a parallel with the way Muslims in the Western world today, especially since September 11 2001, are defined as dangerous, as an ‘other’ civilization, and the Muslim minority within the state are repressively policed.


A feminist understanding of identity has a particular take on gender: we argue that it’s socially constituted,  that it is fluid and various, open to different interpretations, subject to strong pressures from outside the self, and often problematic for the self.  Anyone, any feminist, understanding this surely understands that ethnic, cultural, religious or national identities are socially constituted too. There’s nothing essential, given or fixed about them, any more than about masculinity or femininity.  She’s also likely to see that each person lives her gender in an ethnicized way – we are always not just a woman but a woman who has to deal one way or another with ‘being’ a Serb, an English woman, or an Indian. And each person lives an ascribed ethnicity in a gendered way. Someone says ‘Turk’, for instance. You may feel like asking: a Turkish man or a Turkish woman? Especially given what Turkish feminist Ayse Gul Altinay is telling us in her new book about how Turkish boys are brought up to be the soldier heroes of a military nation.


I learned a lot about this studying the situation of women in Cyprus.  I mentioned earlier how the Partition of Cyprus in 1974 produced huge forced migrations. They’ve lived a further three decades thinking of each other as the enemy, and teaching their children to find their selfhood in the hatred of that dangerous ‘other’.  A bi-communal women’s group, called ‘Hands Across the Divide’, formed in 2002 to call for an end to Partition. But people asked them: Why women? What have women got to say about this political (ie: men’s) issue?


Well, for one thing, they could see that the partition process, which happened at a point in history when a line was drawn on a map, but continues to happen each and every day in the lines scored in people’s heads, was the creation of elite men in twin communities that were not only ethnic hierarchies but gender hierarchies. Thinking as ‘women’ they might have said (and indeed they did also say): ‘women suffer in a gender specific way in this appalling cold war and we want change’. But thinking as feminists they were able to say ‘there’s something wrong here with the system of power’. There’s absolutely nothing illogical about women, as feminists, challenging a partition that’s not a gender partition but an ethnicized one. Of course there is a gender partititon too. The line between men and women runs through our parliament and political parties, our workplaces, our schools and our families. We challenge that. But the process that sustains ethnicized partition is the same process that sustains the gender partition.  Political partition is a gendered phenomenon. What we want rid of is this power system and its whole mode of differentiation.


So the thrust of this talk has been that gender processes as well as ethnic and other identity processes, are at work in war and armed conflict, partition and separatism. A feminist gender analysis is relevant to war and peace in a way that war-makers and even peace-makers don’t often recognize. I suggest that all of us, whether we identify as women or men, gay or straight, Hindu or Moslem – or whether quite precisely our sense of self resides in defying and reworking all such categories – will be more politically effective for ‘doing feminism’.


5472 words

45 minutes


Some valued sources:

Afshar, Haleh and Maynard, Mary (eds) (1994) The Dynamics of ‘Race’ and Gender: Some Feminist Interventions. London: Taylor and Francis.

Brah, Avtar et al (eds) 1999) Thinking Identities: Ethnicity, Racism and Culture. London: Macmillan Press.

Connolly, William E. (1991) Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Rutherford, Jonathan (ed) (1990) Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay (eds) (1996) Questions of Cultural Identity. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Yuval-Davis, Nira (1997) Gender and Nation. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications.


Those of my publications that I draw on here:

The Line: Women, Partition and the Gender Order in Cyprus. (2004) London: Zed.

The Postwar Moment: Militaries, Masculinities and International Peacekeeping. Edited with Dubravka Zarkov. (2002) London: Lawrence and Wishart.

The Space Between Us: Negotiating Gender and National Identities in Conflict. (1998)  London: Zed.


15. Evaluation

The course had an inbuilt evaluation system.  Participants submitted their filled-in evaluation forms relating to various aspects of the course.  Similarly, faculty members gave their views in writing.  Prof. Rajesh Kharat evaluated the field visit. The final evaluation session was held on 14 December and was chaired by Prof. Sanjay Chaturvedi, Co-ordinator, Centre for the study of Geopolitics, Department of Political Science, Punjab University, Chandigarh, India


The major objective of the course was to offer a platform for study, training, capacity building, and pooling of resources in displacment studies.


On the basis of evaluation notes of the participants and the members of the faculty, following salient points have emerged:


Course structure:


The idea of such a course has been exciting to all participants and faculty – especially the focus on South Asia and the possibility of mutual learning by academics and practitioners working in the area.


Reading Material:


Almost all participants appreciated that they received the reading material in time.  A vast majority of participants felt that they found the reading material (books, CDs, primary and secondary sources) comprehensive, by and large up to date, relevant to various themes/sub-themes of the Course, and helpful for writing review notes and term papers.  It was also felt that the reading material will be further useful for research, teaching and reporting for media.  It was pointed out by some participants that the reading material on CD could possibly be made more accessible during the Course by providing more computing facilities. It was pointed out by some of the participants from outside South Asia that they found the reading material very useful also because it is difficult to access such material and it provided a “really different perspective”.  According to one view point, whereas the reading material was very useful for most part, the readings on the IDPs in Afghanistan needed to be updated.




Most participants pointed out they faced no difficulty whatsoever in getting the material in time.  The speed and efficiency with which the instructions were conveyed to the participants were also praised.  One participant proposed that giving longer notice of various deadlines might be helpful.  Another opinion expressed in this regard was that “it would have been better if the topic for the term paper was provided earlier so that there was more time for it.  Since the review note had to be done first, there was more focus on that and the term paper had to be reused in the last few weeks.”  A fairly large number of participants found the module tutor comments on their assignments prompt, illuminating and useful.


Participatory and Interactive Sessions:


The participatory sessions have been well received by and large, with a majority of participants finding them extremely interactive, helpful, informative, thought-provoking, relevant to respective modules, and diverse in terms of themes.  However, it was pointed out by some that their participation in these sessions could be made more rewarding and meaningful if they were asked about their choice and given adequate advance notice.  It was also pointed out that “the discussions were stimulating and it gave us exposure to a wide range of views.  However, perhaps there could be more co-ordination between the panellists and the moderator beforehand to ensure that paper themes compliment each other.  Most felt that they were adequately prepared most of the time.


Film Session:


Despite post-dinner showing of the film, which some felt should, as far as possible, be avoided in future courses, the oeverall response of the participants to the film session can be summed up in one word: Excellent.  The participants also appreciated the gender dimension highlighted by the two films and the manner in which both provide a borader and deeper meaning of displacement.  According to one response, “they were a refreshing approach – could have been included in the programme at an earlier stage!  But on the other hand, we should have also watched some documentaries; they would have provided more insight.”  Some felt that rescheduling the film show would also enable discussion afterwards.


Field Trip:


The overall impression of the participants about the field trip was very positive and encouraging.  Many delegates especially foreign participants felt that the field trip programme was excellent and has to be continued in future as it gives a real picture of the problem.  Participants also think that the single day field visit is not enough to understand the root problems of border people.  Few of them expressed that during the visit the presence of so many volunteers from various organisations became an obstacle to have direct contact with local inhabitants.  Moreover, the language barrier did not allow the non-Bengali participants to conduct personal conversations with locals.  At the organisational level there was no problem.  Everybody was satisfied except few who expected some leisure during the journey.


To make a point here that although the course develops a discourse on the issues like GENDER in the class but in practice it did not happen either during the field trip on or any occasion that may not be necessarily academic.  Apart from this, the informal discussions and concept of Group Discussion was missing from the Post-Field Visit programme.  As a result, the sole purpose of interactive sessions of the delegates at this course is being questioned because of narrow-mindedness.


Lastly, everybody feels that the purpose of visiting the Indo-Bangla border was successful when they have attended the public lecture by an eminent expert on Indo-Bangladesh border lands, Prof. Willem Van Schendel from the University of Amsterdam.




A few interesting suggestions have been made by participants in this regard.  It has been proposed that a 5-7 days workshop on seeking possible solutions to the problems of IDPs and Refugees could be organised sometime in future, bringing victims face to face with the activists to address the issues which the former consider as critical.  The participants would like to be informed about future lectures, workshops, and research projects organised by the CRG, so that the interested alumni could participate and contribute.



Core Strength Areas:




No maps for ready reference.


Concluding Remarks:


On the basis of interaction the evaluators had with the participants they concluded that the Course has been a tremendous success.  International in terms of participation, cosmopolitan in its ethos, and inter-disciplinary in its thrust, the Course has created a network of intellectual activists, which is bound to grow further in terms of both synergy and action.


As per the suggestion given by one of the faculty members after the Course there should be an internet platform for an ongoing dialogue between all participants and CRG.  The CRG policy of encouraging the involvement as well as participation of its alumni in various activities/events is highly laudable in this respect.  Suggestions have also been made in favour of increasing the duration of both the course and the field trip, interaction during the workshops, and participation of young students, especially from the North-East.  The overall impression is that the overall duration of the course is just right but a day or two could be added to the field trip.


A post-field trip discussion/evaluation session will be most appropriate.  The CRG might also like to explore the ways and means of networking among participants of the two courses held so far.  The CRG website could prove to be very useful in this regard and a Notice Board for Alumni on the website might be a good idea to begin with.


Appreciation should be put on record for the term papers/assignments – both individual and group – prepared and presented by the participants.  Whatever heard and/or seen during the course has created a great impression of the innovative themes that most participants have chosen for their term papers.  Some participants, especially those with an activist background, felt that it would be a good idea to have introductory lectures on the key concepts related to various themes/sub-themes of the Course.


Last, but not the least congratulations are due to Dr. Paula Banerjee, Course Coordinator, Professor Ranabir Samaddar and other esteemed colleagues at CRG for having organised and offered an excellent Course with exemplary devotion and enviable professionalism. 


Excerpts from Evaluation notes of the participants:


“It was an excellent course, with a good balance between theoretical and practical focus.  I have benefited enormously from attending and would like to thank all the organisers.” 


“The course has opened various aspects of migration that human rights laws does not always deal with.” 


“The CRG needs appreciation the way they conducted the course right from the distance education and assignments.  The National Human Rights Commission may think of sending more persons to the Course.”


“The evaluation of term papers by participants was the dark point.  The other sessions were extremely useful.”

“There should have been more information in the course, related to ongoing research in this field.”


“It is an eye opener and I take back lot of ideas, knowledge and issues with me.  A new learning.”


“I found this course crossing boundaries of various disciplines and face to face discussion with the activists enabled me to understand their perspectives.  A very stimulating exercise.”


“Extremely relevant and has really given me the opportunity to learn about South Asia which simply wasn’t possible in my education system.”


“I would be honoured and very interested to have further contact with MCRG, for example, if I can assist in any way with publications, research or offering courses.  Also I am happy to explain to other potential participants about my experiences in India and to “advertise” the course  in Europe and New Zealand.  I am happy to come back next year to assist with the course.”


15.   CRG Team on Forced Migration:


Paula Banerjee

Krishna Banerjee

Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury

Aditi Bhaduri

Pradip Bose

Ratan Chakraborty

Subhas Chakraborty

M. Chatterjee

Nilanjan Dutta

Samir Kumar Das

Ashok Kumar Giri

Madhuresh Kumar

Raj Kumar Mahato

Ayan Mukherjee

Ranabir Samaddar


The Advisory Team:


Itty Abraham

Carol Batchelor

Sanjukta Bhattacharya

Debi Chatterjee

B.S. Chimni

Roberta Cohen

Asha Hans

Anna-Kaisa Heikkinen

Monirul Hussain

Sridhar Khatri

Lennart Kotsalainen




Sanjay Chaturvedi

Rajesh Kharat


Ex-participants who advised:


Sarah Angeline

Swati Biswas

Sumana Das

Madhuresh Kumar

Pushparaj Mohanty