Literary Review: Migrants Refugees and the Stateless in South Asia by Partha S. Ghosh

By Govindan Nair


Collective violence is the prime factor behind migrations in South Asia, asserts Partha Ghosh. Since the drawing of political boundaries demarcating the nation states of the region, some 50 million people have scrambled across national borders for succour, usually among co-ethnics. Remarkably, as Ghosh emphasises, South Asian countries have displayed a unique hospitality and unusual empathy towards refuge seekers. The absence of a legal regime on which to base migration policies has only meant bundling together refugees, migrants, illegal settlers and stateless persons, while otherwise being largely immaterial to trans-national movement of people.

“Nobody in India will love me for the award about the Punjab and Bengal and there will be roughly 80 million people with a grievance who will begin looking for me,” wrote Cyril Radcliffe, the draftsman of the partition of India, on the day before he fled back to England. The “grievance” he spawned severed Pakistan from India, triggering unprecedented communal violence and massive migrations that have had a lasting impact on politics and society of both countries. Post-Partition migration, mass exodus to India during and after the Bangladesh liberation struggle, effects of the Sinhala-Tamil conflict, and migration from Afghanistan to Pakistan in more recent years, which together account for the bulk of cross-border movements in South Asia, can be attributed to failures in nation-building. Open borders between India and Nepal, or virtually-open borders of India with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar, and of Pakistan with Afghanistan have also allowed significant population flows. The reasons for shifting abode may be numerous, but — to generalise — it is not governments that people flee from, but strife and competition for resources. Read more

Source: The Hindu