CHAPTER-I: Geopolitics of Fear and Migrations: Critical Geo- Historical Perspectives on India-Bangladesh Relations
CHAPTER-II: Climate Change Impacts, Displacements and Migration: Focusing Bangladesh and India.
CHAPTER-III: Indian Responses: Borders, Orders and Others
CHAPTER-IV: Responses from Bangladesh: Uses and Abuses of Geopolitics of Fear
CHAPTER-V: Questioning Climate Borders: Towards Counter- Imaginative Geographies of care and protection?
ANNEXURE A- Organizations that help or Advocate for [Climate] migrants and Refugees
List of Papers and Publications
This work has bought me not just joy and despair of the hand wringing but also love and support of the few people around the world. Geopolitics and Refugee studies have been by name and by nature, the center of my wander as a Researcher. Study of Geopolitics is the center under the Department of Political Science at Panjab University, Chandigarh the institute I have been affiliated to. The Combination of intellectual sensibilities that ferments in the room at Geopolitics Center has been a most fertile ground for cultivating my scholarly and intellectual development, providing countless sources of inspiration; occasions for discussion with Supervisor and other visiting Scholars, as well as encouragement in the auspicious and inauspicious timings are the steps of this Journey. For all these reasons, I am grateful to all my teachers, companions and staff for their support and assistance.
A special thank-you goes to my Supervisor Prof. Sanjay Chatuvedi. With his inspiration, encouragement, moral support, trusting over my proficiency and most importantly critique, they have constantly accompanied me, sometimes pushing me, and sometime keeping me from going off beam.
I am indebted to a number of persons who in various forms and occasions have contributed of this work work: My Parents, not only introduced me to the world of refugees but have sustained me through it with their affection and indulgence, People whom I have met in Sunder bans who are example of resource management. Many people matters to me are not definitely mentioned here together, we have gone through good and bad moments of life.
This Study was carried out within the framework of the Panjab University Social Sciences Center for the Study of Geopolitics. I am gratefully acknowledging the financial support from ICSSR, Which has also generously made possible my field Visit to Sunderbans via travel grants.
Panjab University, 2015
illustration not visible in this excerpt
CHAPTER-I Geopolitics of Fear and Migrations: Critical Geo-Historical Perspectives on India-Bangladesh Relations
It is only recently that in the study of Geopolitics and International Relations, the role played by emotional geographies has been acknowledge and analyzed at some length (see Davidson & Smith, 2007, Anderson & Smith, 2001, Moïsi, 2009). The key intention of this chapter is twofold. Firstly, to theoretically engage with the geopolitics of fear and its various facets. Secondly, to examine how the issue of climate change induced displacements and migrations is getting increasingly implicated in the geopolitics of fear and getting securitized in both India and Bangladesh. The chapter also explores how India-Bangladesh relations have been historically (especially during post-1971 period) marked (rather marred) by fear-inducing imaginative geographies of trans-border migrations in general and the discourse of ‘illegal migrations‘ in particular. The key question for this chapter then becomes: In what ways does the long-standing history of trans-border migrations in India-Bangladesh relations, and related cartographic anxieties, on the one hand, and growing securitization of climate migrations issue globally, on the other, contribute to geopolitics of fear within and between these two neighboring countries?
The chapter begins with a brief theoretical engagement with the geopolitics of fear. We address the manner in which some of the fear-inducing geopolitics of climate change reinforces the existing border producing discourses and/or gives rise to the new ones. The analysis then turns to a mapping of the major landmarks in the history of India-Bangladesh relations (before 1971 India-East Pakistan relations) with special reference to emotional geographies and geopolitics of fear related to ‘illegal‘ migrations. The chapter enters into a brief engagement with the complex and nuanced issue of ‘securitization‘ before turning to greater details with examples from India and Bangladesh in the next two chapters.
Geopolitics of Fear and Migrations: Theoretical Reflections
The term ‘Geopolitics‘ requires some explanation at the very outset. For the purposes of this work we are inclined to uphold that the complex and nuanced nature of the term ‘geopolitics‘ defies a single definition. There are several ways in which geopolitics and ‘geopolitical‘ can be approached and analyzed. Geopolitics can be understood as a discourse, at the core of which lies a complex interplay “between power-knowledge and social and political relations” (Dodds, 2014: 29). In the words of one of the leading proponents of the critical version of geopolitics, a key concern is to reveal how various grand geopolitical schemes and narratives are dictated and driven by the agendas of various centers of power and their political elites (O‘ Tuathail, 1992: 439). The manner in which these national security elites “represent the nature and defining dilemmas of international politics in particular ways” by writing “particular ‘scripts‘ in international politics concerning places, peoples and issues” (Ibid.) further reinforces the power-knowledge nexus. “Such ‘scripts‘ then becomes part of the means by which (great power) hegemony is exercised in the international system” (Ibid).
In the ‘geopolitics of emotions‘ too one finds a complex power-knowledge-power operating at various levels. Dominique Moïsi (2009) has argued that geopolitics is about both materiality/resources and ideas/emotions. In his view, emotions play a central role in human interactions at various levels (Ibid. xi). He identifies ‘fear‘, ‘hope‘ and ‘humiliation‘ as the three key emotions for understanding many facets of contemporary global geopolitics. Confidence is “the defining factor in how nations and people address the challenges they face [e.g. climate induced migration] as well as how they relate to one another” (Ibid. 5). According to Moïsi:
Fear is the absence of confidence. If your life is dominated by fear, you are apprehensive about the present and expect the future to become more dangerous. Hope, by contrast, is an expression of confidence; it is based on the conviction that today is better than yesterday and that tomorrow will be better than today. And humiliation is the injured confidence of those who have lost hope in the future; your lack of hope is the fault of others, who have treated you badly in the past (Ibid.).
Moïsi further argues that fear “as an emotional response to the perception, real or imagined, of an impending danger” (Ibid: 92) seems to have overwhelmed socio-spatial consciousness, especially in the West. Various events surrounding 9/11 simply “confirmed and deepened” the sense of fear of the other who is seen as bent upon undermining the political, cultural and livelihood security. The list of fears seems to be ever increasing; the new additions include fear of natural, disasters, from global warming, and disease pandemics; all adding to the huge uncertainty over future (Ibid). Sanjay Chaturvedi & Timothy Doyle (2010) have applied the knowledge- power nexus of geopolitics to the phenomena of climate change. In their view a critical social science approach to global warming and climate change enables us to expose how various scripts and narratives of climate change implicate various places on selectively drawn regional and global maps of risks, threats and insecurities. What makes such scripts and the underlying imaginative geographies of fear all the more intriguing is the fact that diverse political ideological agendas notwithstanding nearly all such narratives derive their respective authority, legitimacy and efficacy from the climate earth science.
The politics of fear has several uses/abuses and users. Bleiker & Hutchison (2008:119) draw attention to how in the pursuit of their own interests, the powers that be resort to the strategic deployment of fear at the service of “projects of political renewal”. Many politicians, irrespective of their ideological preferences, use fear “to manipulate the population in a manner that served their particular interests” (Ibid.). Thomas Hobbes had no doubt whatsoever that fear often leaves a strong imprint on popular perceptions, public debates as well as policymaking. At the same time, it can also provide justification and legitimacy in support of collective political will and moral imperatives; a point to which we shall be returning in detail in the section to follow. As Stefan Skrimshire puts it so succinctly:
Certainly for Hobbes, a seminal figure in the history of the ‘production‘ of political fear, it was the task of the state to educate and instill a culture of fear in its citizens if it was to control them. Through subsequent historical developments it went on to become a key component in legitimizing sovereign rule and containing popular dissent. From the ‘terror‘ of the French revolutionaries to Second World War and Cold War propaganda, the shift in thinking about fear has been towards its strategic public use and away from the privatized domain of personal morality. Fear, in this sense, is not only all pervasive but all-controlling. It is frequently the deciding factor in campaign strategies in times of war (Skrimshire, 2011: 17).
Fear, as this work will argue and illustrate, and its strategic deployment to control the mobility of populations and contain popular dissent, can be as complex and compelling during the ‘times of peace‘ as during the ‘times of war‘. One particular category of human mobility that has is now at the heart of nearly global geopolitics of fear is that of ‘migration’. As pointed out by Jennifer Hyndman (2012:243): “Migration has long been a barometer of geopolitics, from human displacement generated by war to containment practices in particular territories or camps”. In more recent times, the securitization of migration has more pronounced as a key defining feature of contemporary geopolitics. A number of scholarly studies draw our attention to how and an exclusionary and reactionary ‘homeland’ politics has evolved in response to migrations (Hyndman 2012, Coleman, 2009, Cowen & Gilbert, 2008, Huysmans, 2006, Squire, 2009).
Mobility is not restricted to migrations and includes various other types of territorial movements. As Domosh & Seager (2001: 110) put it so aptly, “Mobility is greatest at the extreme ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. The mobility of the destitute is a hardship-induced rootlessness: the homeless, refugees, people on the margins of job markets, and people pushed into migration out of need or crisis are all clustered at this end of the mobility curve. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the highflyers (literally and metaphorically)”.
Doreen Massey (1993:61) while examining the ‘politics of mobility and access’, would argue that different groups of people have distinct relationships to mobility: “Some are more in charge of it than others; some initiate flows and movement, others don‘t; some are more on the receiving end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it” (Ibid. 61). In other words:. “Movement is rarely just movement; it carries with it the burden of meaning and it is this meaning that jumps scales” (Cresswell, 2006: 6–7).
Another key concept that is central to analysis in this work is that of ‘imaginative geographies‘. According to Derek Gregory (2004: 17) ‘We might think of imaginative geographies as fabrications, a word that usefully combines ‘‘something fictionalized‘‘ and ‘‘something made real”, because they are imaginations given substance.‘ Imaginative geographies at the same time imply, ‘Representations of other places of peoples and landscapes, cultures and ‘‘natures‘‘ that articulate the desires, fantasies and fears of their authors and the grids of power between them and their ‘‘others‘‘ (Gregory, 2009: 369).
It is useful to flag the point that imaginative geographies play a major role in the pursuit, production and politics of knowledge and help us in understanding the knowledge-power nexus behind various framings of ‘catastrophic‘ events. For addressing the long-standing contestations surrounding the issue of cross border migration problem between India and Bangladesh we need to critically examine the complex politics behind the imaginative geographies of migration flows, which is quite nuanced. Among other things what these imaginative geographies do is that they make B/ordering practices quite complex. It further needs to be said that it is a high time for both the countries to use their imagination to answer this question that‘s why people are migrating or crossing the border and wants to enter into India? If we could be able to answer this question and then the question how to prevent this problem would automatically be answered.in the second chapter of this synopsis, we will be examining the large-scale climatic events that will strike the South Asia in decades ahead, so it is important to grasp how the complex historical and cultural issues associated with migration in the region could play out in the wake of coming crisis and unknown future at unknown places.
Alastair McIntosh (2008: 250) has argued that “Hope is about setting in place the preconditions that might reconstitute life and then getting on with it”. Migration flows have a long history and a complex geography to them. A good deal has also been said and written on the so-called ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. Some people move internally from rural to urban areas within the national borders, whereas some decide to move to other countries, including poor and underdeveloped lands, in the hope of making a better living. In some cases, the arrival of the migrants places extra burden and pressure on the host communities, especially if they are already impoverished, while adding to the fear of marginalization by the new, hardworking and mobile settlers. In many cases, all these fears and anxieties result in a backlash against the immigrants (Myron Weiner, 1995).
On the issue of illegal migrants one comes across two types of literature. The first expression comes from the globalization literature, as argued by Mathew Horsman & Andrew Marshall (1995: 47), which suggests that changes in air transport, satellite, missiles and cyber technology, activities of transnational and trans-national government networks have rendered traditional exclusionary and defensive functions of borders less relevant. This literature further suggested that the military threats coming from neighbouring states in the form of illegal flows at borders are much harder to identify (Gearóid Ó Tuathail, 1998: 31) and address. Gearóid Ó Tuathail makes this change clearly by suggesting that that cross-border terrorism, arms smuggling, and refugee flows:”are threats in the form of dangerous flow motions, semi-permanent yet fluid structures of movement, transit and flow that challenge, erode and undermine the authority of states. They are often difficult to combat because they are formless and decentralized, mobile and shifting webs that cannot be discretely located on a map. Advances in technologies of transportation, transmission and communication have made these threats more potent” (Gearóid Ó Tuathail, 1999: 21-22).
Manuel Castells (1991) argues that, the dynamics of illegal border crossers have led some scholars to believe that “spaces of flows” have replaced “spaces of places. Scholars like Kenichi Olmae (1995) have concluded that we live in a “borderless world”. Ohmae considers borderlessness for as the ‘most rational and desirable form of global order‘. Since it enables individuals to access to the best and cheapest goods and services from anywhere in the world. It also makes it possible for corporations to provide stable and rewarding employments anywhere in the world notwithstanding the corporations’ national identity; “coordinate activities with other governments to minimize conflicts arising from narrow interest; avoid abrupt changes in economic and social fundamentals” (Ohmae, 1990:216-17). In a succeeding book titled, The End of the Nation State: the rise of regional Economies (1995), Ohmae argued that “fixed lines on maps no longer provide any meaningful guide to the new(b) orderless world of global flows. The flow motions of industry, investment, individuals and information(the global “I‘s”) have been eroding nation-states, and now leave the world political map as a “cartographic illusion” (Ibid:80). The key argument is that the dynamics of migrants crossing border have decreased the state control over their borders. In the era of globalization border control methods which are designed for territorial protection against an aggressive neighboring state may no longer prove to be as effective as anticipated. Today challenges to borders no longer seen as emanating from military threats alone, but also coming from illegal border crossers due to several pull and push factors, including climate change. No single state, therefore, is in a position to protect its borders effectively. In this vein, James Anderson (1995, 67) has argued that these flows do indeed question the idea that borders have become less relevant. Instead, it could be argued that the dynamics of illegal border crossings, rather than diminishing states‘ authority, have provided the states both with the context and the pretext to establish even stronger forms of border protection and control. He further stated that “As the globalization literature suggests there is a need to rethink and revisit traditional forms of border protection in the wake of the highly dynamic, complex and uncertain nature of illegal migrants crossing border. These very dynamics have weakened traditional methods of border protection, but have not decreased states‘ ability of border protection” (ibid: 67). Instead, states, especially in the Global North, have responded/adapted to this new challenging environment by reinforcing their borders through modern methods and more sophisticated surveillance techniques. After 9/11 and Mumbai terror attacks, and now with the growing fear of climate induced migration, governments throughout South Asia are using high tech technology to securitize their borders. The main argument of various national security establishments and related agencies is that even if military functions of borders are on decline, policing functions of borders are certainly on increase and demand reinforcement of various kinds. Carl Grundy-Warr & Schofield capture these two contradictory tendencies nicely by stating that:
We live in paradoxical times, whereby borders are both increasingly permeable yet are continually being reified and reasserted in the light of perceived security threats. Whilst the military significance of international boundaries has declined due to space-time compression technologies and new weapons systems, states have still tended to strengthen the ‘security‘ role of borders as barriers and filters against ‘hostile‘ elements‘…(Grundy-War & Schofield, 2005: 654, 655).
Peter Andreas (2009: 85) has analyzes border functions in terms of military, economic and policing functions. The argument here is that these functions belong to different historical trajectories. While traditional military and economic functions of borders are declining, the policing functions of borders are increasing due to growing illegalities at borders. He goes on to state that: The intensification of border controls in recent years is evident in sharply rising law enforcement budgets; new and more invasive laws; the development of more sophisticated surveillance and information technologies; stricter visa regimes and more technologically advanced and forgery-resistant travel documents; enhanced cooperation with source and transit countries and a greater extension of tracking and control mechanisms beyond the point of entry (i.e., a "thickening" of borders and the creation of buffer zones); and in some places, growing use of military and intelligence hardware, personnel, and expertise for policing tasks. The importance of policing territorial access is also evident in the rising prominence of law enforcement in international diplomacy and in the policy discourse about borders, with many states formally promoting policing from the traditional status of "low politics" to the "high politics" of security. (Andreas, 2003: 79).
The globalization literature subscribes to the view that illegal migrants and border crossers decreases the power of states on their border institutions, the second type of literature suggests that it is very dynamics of illegal migrant / border crossers which motivates states to reinforce their borders with technologies such as advanced surveillance, military and intelligence equipments and cooperation with neighbouring states (Ibid). Climate change story can act in both ways. Here are a few examples from India. A significant contribution to this climate of fear has been made by TV news channels like Fight India, Sansani, NDTV, India Today and Aaj Tak. Also contributing to the popular climate of fear are the Hollywood movies like ‘Day after Tomorrow‘, ‘After 2012‘ and ‘Climate Refugees‘ etc. These television serials and Hollywood movies tend to convey the message that catastrophic events can not only be not prevented, they are already upon us in some ways. The manner in which these channels and movies represent the threats of both disasters and climate change invokes fear in the popular imaginations over the unexpected challenges of the unknown, is worth exploring. No doubt there have indeed been several unexpected ‘natural disasters‘ such as floods in Guwahati (Assam) Teesta flood (Bangladesh), floods sweep in Midwest in Missouri and lllinios and drought in California in July 2014. Also, in September 2014 large scale flooding caused havoc in Kashmir on both sides of India-Pakistan border. Against the backdrop of loss of human lives and extensive damage to private and personal property, some of the popular media (print and visual) left no stone unturned to introduce a massive doze of fear in popular minds by highlighting links between climate change and natural disasters. This was done many times in a highly sensational ways and without any attention being paid to the complex mix of reasons that cause displacement and dispersion.
However, invoking fear with regard to climate change and mass migration is not a new phenomenon. As early as 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1990:20) had warned that “the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration” and in 2007 the United Nation Security Council identified climate change-induced migration as an issue of international security. Mike Hulme (2008: 6) would argue that diverse human cultures have equally diverse ways of constructing narratives of fear around their direct or vicarious experience of ‘strange‘, unknown or portended climates. According to some “The history of humanity is characterised by an endemic anxiety . . . it is as if something or someone is remorselessly trying to damage the world‘s driving force – and particularly its climate” (Boia 2005: 149). As for the more recent times, one needs to acknowledge that physical climate is not the only factor that is changing various social, cultural and economic factors too have undergone significant transformation over the last few decades (Mike Hulme, 2014).
As Anssi Paasi (1999: 669) has argued boundaries are: “...institutions and symbols that are produced and reproduced in social practices and discourses.” These evolving imaginative statements, cited above, would reinforce the old borders and create new borders of differences between India (Hindus) and Bangladesh (Muslims). The complex, compelling and overlapping geographies of fear of climate change ‘induced‘ displacements in many parts of South Asia and particularly between India and Bangladesh are likely to challenge the traditional formulations of sovereignty and security in ways hitherto unimagined. They will give rise to new borders and boundaries in this vortex alarming discourse of Climate Induced Migration between India and Bangladesh. As Houtum (2005:672) very persuasively argues that border studies can now dominantly be characterized as the study of human practices driven in many instances in fear that constitutes and represent difference in space and in above illustration between places of origin.
The earth is in effect one world, in which empty, uninhabited spaces virtually do not exist. Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas about forms, about images and imagining (Edward Said, 1993:7)
The politics behind the bordering practices between India and Bangladesh is influenced by a number of factors including religious fundamentalism, and communal considerations. From time to time, one comes across threatening statements and speeches that try to securitize illegal migration from Bangladesh. A more recent addition to longstanding fences –concrete and imagined- is the fear inducing narrative of climate induced displacement forcing millions of climate migrants crossing into India in search of livelihood security. We will be looking at a number of such statements/speeches in the two chapters that follow.
Many scholars argue that the longstanding history of illegal migration between India-Bangladesh borders offers a preview of the ways that climate transformation is likely to affect political boundaries in the rest of the world in general and between India and Bangladesh in particular. We will expand this point in chapter 3 by focusing more sharply on how various state and non state actors in South Asia securitize migration by deploying fear-inducing metaphors and narratives.
As Corey Robin (2004: 4) puts it so aptly, ‘politicians have, indeed, always used fear to manipulate the population in a manner that served their particular interest‘. Thomas Hobbes believed that ‘fear not only leaves strong marks on public debates and policy making but it can also serve as an important source for justifying collective political and moral foundations (Ibid). Usage of fear of depends of course upon the specific topic with which it is associated. According to Pfuhl & Henry (1993: 53), a discourse of fear may be defined as the pervasive communication, symbolic awareness, and expectation that danger and risk is a central feature of the effective environment, or the physical and symbolic environment as people define and experience it in everyday life. These days fears are being used by social media to provide entertaining news that benefits their discursively practices of social control and promotes distrust among their target audience. Fear has that capacity to make impossible thing look Possible and Possible thing look impossible. Fear is the discourse of control, regulate and surveillance. Fear is a key element of creating “the risk society,” organized around communication oriented to policing, control, and prevention of risks (Ericson & Haggerty 1997; Staples, 1997). Rachel Pain (2009) has coined the term “globalised fear”. This expression has relevance for some of the key arguments we are making in this work. It reinforces our contention that geopolitics of climate fear in South Asia is articulated through both perspectives on and from South Asia. The latter shows how various actors and agencies in the Global North fear South Asia becoming a region of social and political instability in the wake of climate change. Whereas the former reveals how a number of actors/agencies in South Asia, feel, frame, flag the ‘climate fear’.
As the 21st century unfolds, discourse of fear are likely to play an increasingly prominent role in the rhetoric and practices of governance and articulated through books, articles, movies, popular culture and the news Media (Altheide & Michalowski, 1999; Pain, 2009; Sparke, 2007; Bauman 2006, Bourke 2005, Furedi 2005, 2006, Robin 2004). Lipschutz (1999: 17) has argued that the amplification of threat and of fear is inextricably linked with possibility thinking. In his view,, the ‘paradox of unknowability’ leads to ‘worst case analysis’, which in turn reinforces the ‘narratives of fear‘. Clarke (2006: 42) acknowledges the contrast between these two ways of perceiving the future; one in terms of probability and the other in terms of possibility. He notes that “if we imagine the future in terms of probabilities, then risks look safe‘, but ‘if we imagine the future in terms of possibilities, however, horrendous scenarios appear.” What is common to both however is the deployment of certain geographies of emotions. Crawford (2000) would remind us that emotions are deeply internal, and it is not easy to distinguish genuine emotions from their ‘instrumental display’. This point needs further elaboration, since it has an important bearing on this study.
Andrew Ross (2005:11) has insightfully argued that since emotions are inherently internal and thus invisible, we can get to know them only through practices of representation, narratives, gestures or other ways of communicating feelings and beliefs. Fear is not new to India-Bangladesh relations, given the long-standing history of B/Ordering of fear. Although there are several factors behind illegal migration flows across India-Bangladesh borders, of late climate change has come to be increasingly perceived as one of the major push factors As noted by Wilson & Donnan (1998: 12) all borders are “...complex and multi-dimensional cultural phenomena, variously articulated and interpreted across space and time. This suggests that a priori assumptions about the nature of "the border" are likely to founder when confronted with empirical data; far from being a self-evident, analytical given which can be applied regardless of context, the "border" must be interrogated for its subtle and sometimes not so subtle shifts in meaning and form according to setting.” The section to follow argues and illustrates the complex interplay between securitization and bordering practices; the manner in which the two relate to one another and reinforce their underlying reasoning‘s.
Towards Increasing Securitization of Migration and Reinforcement of Physical & Mental Borders
Globally speaking securitization of migration is a trend that is becoming increasingly pronounced with each passing day. The securitization of migration comes into play when intellectuals and institutions of statecraft construct a body of knowledge with regard to an overarching notion of ‘security‘, linking various social threats like arm smuggling, trafficking and even terrorism with image of immigrants, including ‘climate migrants‘ and ‘refugees‘. Consequently, a powerful emotional geopolitics of fear is set into motion. Securitization is defined as “the move that takes politics beyond the established rules of the game and frames the issue either as special kind of politics or as above politics” (Buzan, waver, de Wilde 1998:23). As Burnell, Randall,
& Rakner (2011:356) point out, “the Securitization framework highlights how language is used to construct threats. The key idea behind the concept of Securitization is that security is a speech act. There are no security issues per se, but all issues can be constructed as security issue through speech acts by securitizing actors.” As pointed out by Weaver (1995:55) of the Copenhagen School, “the utterance itself is the act”.
Although the concept of securitization is a helpful descriptive and analytical tool in understanding how states elevate certain categories of threats, there are difficulties with operationalization of this concept. Concerns have been expressed over the possibility of securitization arguments being misused by political elite of certain countries for domestic geopolitical purposes. In other words, security as a speech act could be deployed by various actors and agencies in pursuit of specific geopolitical agenda. Jutila has argued (2006:171) that “successful securitization means that the securitized issue is shifted from the domain of 'normal' politics to 'emergency' politics. In other words, securitization takes politics out of the domain of 'normality' i.e. established rules of the game – and frames the particular issue in question as unique or above politics altogether. Thus securitization is an extreme version of politicization”.
Bangladesh-India relations in the context of real or imagined/anticipated climate-induced migration are an excellent example of securitization. A great deal of mistrust and disagreement between these two states has prevailed over a long time between the two over the issue of cross border migration from Bangladesh into India. Some scholars have explored the politics of security and securitization in India, be it on the topic of Bangladeshi immigration (Joseph, 2006), environmental securitization as related to India‘s quest for ‘great power status‘ (Buzan, 2002), the politics behind persistent environmental stress and desertification (Brauch, 2009), or nuclear deterrence vis a vis Pakistan (Das, 2010). Some have even pointed out that in India infect, the non-securetization sectors are heavily being securitized by developed countries (Ihlau, 2009).
A number of scholars and media reporters have also expressed the concern that in case of climate change forcing Bangladeshi to move across the Indian border in large numbers, certain actors and agencies in India might issue the call for the declaration of some kind of an emergency. Forces of Climate Change will compel the millions of Bangladeshis to left their homes and the fences and signs and representation and perception about them as “terrorist” “threat” “poor” “others” and “Muslim” and “uncivilized” will prevent them from entering or take refuge in India. So all those practices that are creating borders and order both Physical and mental reveals it more arbitrary and traumatic as the partition of 1947 itself. When the impacts of Climate change will manifold along with these fears between both the nations will be multiplying and intense woes prevails over border in the coming decade.
And in the eventuality of India refusing to provide relief and shelter to ‘climate refugees‘ from Bangladesh on its territory, international community and Bangladesh might look at the Indian state as not being friendly (rather hostile) to Bangladeshi people. The point we wish to flag here is that the discourse and practices of securitizing are likely to generate new kinds of pressures for state responses based on morality and ethics; an issue to which we turn at some length next in Chapter 5 of this work.
Reinforcing India-Bangladesh Relations and Border Fencing: Post 9/11
As pointed out by Smith (2007: 621), “Border security and the ability to decide who comes in and who is excluded is an essential aspect of state sovereignty.” Especially in the wake of 9/11, the boundary/border producing discourses have brought human mobility/flows under the closer gaze of national security establishment. The rhetoric and reality of borders and bordering practices have started shaping the lives and livelihood practices of even those communities that are located at a considerable distance from the borders. (Popescu, 2011). Bangladesh is widely represented as a danger to the stability of India and Bangladeshi Muslim/ migrants are imagined as irrational, enemy, terrorists, others, who, therefore, must be prevented from entering India. Reflecting critically on narratives of this kind, Reccce M. Jones (2008) would argue that boundaries play a critical role in the ordering processes of modernity. The boundaries create the perception of clean breaks between categories that allow calculations to be made and power to be exercised. The global boundary narratives of the global war on terror have been deployed in India to justify and fencing and securitizing the border with Bangladesh” (Ibid). Whereas Amoore (2006) would lament that the boundary narratives and practices of the global war on terror mark undesirable others as some kind of borders and thereby a threat to ‘civilized state‘.
Some scholars Oza (2007a) have argued that in the wake of the partition of British India, the boundary producing discourses and narratives have drawn upon categories of religion and culture. Discourses that label Muslims as the other have also served the “Hindu Right‘s agenda of crafting a pure Hindu nation by dismantling the place of Pakistan and Muslim minorities in the subcontinent” (Ibid: 17). This was clearly reflected in the tone and tenor of a speech given by L.K. Advani (2008) explicitly linked the people and territory of Bangladesh to the terrorist threat in India. He said:
We can see this clearly from what both Pakistan and Bangladesh have been doing to us. Neither can match India‘s military strength. Yet, both have been threatening India with cross-border terrorism. This warfare is waged by an invisible enemy, for whom the civil society is both a source of sustenance and the target. The enemy exploits the liberties; freedom, technological facilities and infrastructure to his advantage, making even the more powerful, better equipped security agencies feel helpless (Advani 2008 & Jones 2009).
Sengupta (2001) argues that “the inclusion of Bangladesh as an equal partner with Pakistan in supporting terrorist activities in India marks a fundamental shift in the framing of Bangladesh in the public discourse in India and in the relations between the two governments. While India and Pakistan have been in conflict since their independence, Bangladesh and India has had peaceful relations, further encouraged by the linguistic and cultural history Bangladesh shares with the Indian state of West Bengal.”
It was in the wake of 9/11 that the Indian Government decided to expand its security measures in 2004 and created the Department of Border Management within the Indian ministry of Home Affairs to coordinate the overseeing of border areas and to facilitate the construction of fences, roads and floodlights along India‘s borders. By the year 2007, India had constructed 1913 kilometer fence with Pakistan, “with only rivers and desert areas that consists of shifting sand dunes left unfenced” (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2008:146). The decision to fence India‘s longest section of border at 4096 kilometers with Bangladesh was perceived by many as ‘unexpected‘. By the end of 2007, nearly 2535 kilometers of barbed wire fencing stood completed along the Bangladesh border and 3250 kilometers of roads were constructed to facilitate the ‘strategic‘ movement of Indian Border security Forces (Ministry of Home Affairs 2008). Floodlights, which would remain illuminated all night long, were installed on 277 kilometers-long, most frequently crossed, sections. Within a year, the project of floodlight was expanded with a goal of lightning up a total of 2840 kilometers of the border with Bangladesh by 2012, at the additional cost of US$ 275 million (Rs.1327 crore) (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2008: 30).
It appears that the discourse of the ‘global war on terror‘ has been invoked in India for three reasons listed by O Tuathail (2003) and Singh (2006) in a rather general context. Firstly is support of legislation that allows widespread surveillance of individuals and migrants suspected of engaging in terrorist activities. Secondly, to expand security relationships with the United States, and thirdly to fence off the borders in order to prevent illegal migration. All the three sets of reasoning have been feeding on the fear of a violent and irrational other.
The study of narratives and discourse is central to an understanding of all types of boundaries, particularly state boundaries. In this vein Newman & Passi (1998: 201) have argued that these narratives could possibly range from foreign policy discourses, geographical texts and literature, including maps, to various dimensions of formal and informal socialization which affect the creation of socio-spatial identities, especially the notions of "us" and the "Other", exclusive and inclusive spaces and territories‘. As shown by Reece M. Jones (2008: 125) the overall outcome of the geopolitical boundary narratives and exclusionary practices introduced/justified by the global war on terror “is the symbolic and real exclusion of Muslims from the modern state of India.”
Trans-Border Migration Issue between India and Bangladesh –The Berlin Wall/ Great Wall of South Asia-
It is quite insightful to start these sections with a philosophical reflection on the partition of British India in 1947 that witnessed unprecedented violence on the Indian sub-continent.
Partition.- For a long time, and certainly all the time that we were children, it was a word we heard every now and again said by some adult in conversation sometimes in anger, sometimes bitterly, but mostly with sorrow, voice trailing off, a resigned shake of the head, a despairing flutter of the hands. All recollections were punctuated with "before Partition" or "after Partition", marking the chronology of our family history... How do we know Partition except through the many ways in which it is transmitted to us, in its many representations: political, social, historical, testimonial, literary, documentary, and even communal. We know it though national and family mythologies, through collective and individual memory. Partition, almost uniquely, is one event in our recent history in which familial recall and its encoding are a significant factor in any general reconstruction of it. In a sense, it is the collective memory of thousands of displaced families on both sides of the border that have imbued a rather innocuous word - partition - with its dreadful meaning: a people violently displaced, a country divided. Partition: a metaphor for irreparable loss (Menon & Bhasin, 1998).
More than eight million people migrated and one million died at the time of partition of British India. The issue of forced migration, violence between Hindus and Muslims, and mass widowhood were exceptional and well-documented. From the outset fear constituted the fulcrum around which India-Bangladesh relations (East Pakistan before 1971) were to evolve with wide-ranging implications. In the long shadow of partition, walls of various kinds have been enacted between India and Bangladesh. The relationship between the two countries has been characterized by an enduring tension between space-enclosing (geopolitical) and space-opening (geo-economics) logics. More recently, in the era of neo-liberalism, this dualism in India-Bangladesh has become pronounced. Matthew Sparke in his book entitled, Introducing Globalisation: Ties, Tensions and Uneven Integration (2013) make a number of thought provoking observations that have a bearing on this study. Taking the example of EU he argues that although it has emerged as supranational free-trade area with shared governance, shared spatial planning, and shared external border, old borders (especially social-cultural) have not entirely disappeared. For external applicant‘ countries aspiring for EU membership such as Turkey, and refugees and migrants travelling from Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans “the external borders of today‘s Europe represent a geopolitically fraught and deeply consequential territorial divide.” Thus, far from witnessing the end of geography, we see an intriguing coupling (rather entanglement) of deterritorialization and reterritorialization that gives rise to new patterns of uneven geographical development that are also unevenly experienced depending on “where you come from” and “who are you”.
A closer and critical look at the bilateral relations rhetoric between India and Bangladesh, on the one hand, appears to be driven by geo-economics perspective cast largely in terms of the flows of goods. But it is geopolitics of fear that seems to dominate when it comes to human flows. This uneven geographical pattern of India-Bangladesh relations represents global tension between ‘geo-economics‘ spaces of cooperation, inclusion and integration, and ‘geopolitical‘ zones of conflict, isolation, and military intervention. It is possible to argue that neoliberalism has the capacity to displace, even demolish, the old special patterns and barriers. But when it comes to issue of migration and refugees, the South Asia boundaries and borders stand reinforced in the form of representations and symbols that emerge from and in turn feed into the practices of bordering, ordering and othering.
Between India and Bangladesh there are already a number of long standing and complex conflicts over illegal trade, water sharing, boundary dispute, maritime border, and illegal migration. Given such a situation, marked by trust deficit, many analysts feel that environmental or climate migrants and refugees, caused by sea level rise, will generate more mistrust and conflicts between India and Bangladesh. Sonali Narang (2013) argues that illegal migration is already a highly controversial issue between India and Bangladesh, and climate migration driven migration will make it much more complex and compelling. We will come to this section shortly. But before doing so, we might briefly trace the long standing history of geopolitics of fear and migration between these two countries. Migration which at one point of time was considered as the issue of low politics has now become the issue of high politics (Smith, 2007). The problem of refugees and migration can be traced back to the formation of Pakistan as a separate state in 1947 partition of India that witnessed a large-scale communal violence and one of the largest refugee flows in history. Millions became refugees overnight within their own State. According to Kali Prasad Mukhopadhyay (2007), it was ‘humanity’ that was ‘attacked’ as the partitioned states, societies and neighborhoods were partitioned in Punjab and Bengal. In a path breaking book entitled Other side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India, Uravshi Butalia (2000) argues and illustrates that the scale of human suffering at the time of partition cannot be conveyed through documents or for that matter archived. The official documents and the details therein fail to portray the light and sufferings of the untouchables, women and children. Chakrabarty (2004:23) would argue forcefully that feelings of nostalgia, resentment and fear were prevalent amongst migrants and refugees who suffered a “near annihilation of a people and their intellectually and emotionally vibrant sub-culture”.
Another round of violence and sufferings for millions of refugees followed the emergence of East Pakistan as an independent state of Bangladesh in 1971. According to Datta (2004: 337), “Ever since the partition of the Indian subcontinent and formation of East Pakistan and later Bangladesh, their nationals came to India with or without valid documents. Over 4.7 million Hindus had sought refuge in India up to 1971. The fear and terror unleashed by the Military of Pakistan forced about 10 million people to cross over to India in 1971” (Ibid). As pointed out by Roy Guha (2003) many Bangladeshi migrants to India might have resolved that they would return to their homeland after the Liberation War in 1971, but a considerable number of undocumented migrants decided to stay back.
Movement of people from Bangladesh to India continues in search for employment opportunities and better livelihood prospects due to poverty and lack of development in Bangladesh. Now in the context of climate change, one finds growing concerns and anxieties over the prospects of ‘millions’ getting displaced in Bangladesh and seeking refuge in India. Sahana Bose (2014) argues that “It is expected that due to sea-level rises in the future many millions of Bangladeshis will flee to India, exacerbating further the ongoing disputes between India and Bangladesh. Human security will be the most important agenda item for Indian-Bangladeshi relations in the coming decades”. Concerns over climate induced migrations are further magnified in the light of already existing fears over a large scale illegal migration from Bangladesh into India. According to I.P Khosla (2005) about 250,000 Hindus and as many Muslims have migrated to India every year from Bangladesh (earlier East Pakistan) since 1951.
To return to ‘anticipated’ climate change induced displacements and migrations, Praful Bidwai (2003) has argued that against the backdrop of longstanding problems between the two countries, there will be millions of people who might be displaced in Bangladesh and a very large number of them would attempt to enter India illegally, resulting in multiplied tensions between New Delhi and Dhaka. Whereas Podesta & Ogden (2007:117) argue that “Bangladeshi migrants will generate political tension as they traverse the region‘s many contested borders and territories, such as those between China, India, and Pakistan.” Politicians too have joined the ranks of climate alarmists in academia and think tanks. In 2003, the then Home Minister of India, L. K. Advani ordered all states to deport illegal immigrants. A few weeks later, 265 people were sent to the border, but authorities in Bangladesh declined to accept them. In fact India‘s Border Security Forces (BSF), and its counterpart the Bangladesh Border Guards (then called the Bangladesh Rifles), came quite close to exchange of fire between them over the issue. L. K. Advani, addressing a press conference in 2006 once again asked Indian government to take stern actions against the growing number of illegal immigrant population in the country. (Hindustan Times, April 7, 2006).
Migrants on the ‘Geopolitical Chessboard’ of India-Bangladesh Relations: Securitization of Reasoning’s, Objects and Agencies
In case of India and Bangladesh, the history of migration flows may be divided broadly into two parts: pre-1971 and post 1971. The post 1971 period refers to the trend of migration after the creation of Bangladesh. As pointed out above, in the entire region. Large scale immigration (both of Hindus and Muslims) did take place between 1951 and 1971 (B.B Kumar, 2006: 81). As pointed out by Jayanta Kumar Ray (2002), migration from Bangladesh to India should be viewed in reference to earlier periods. It was the British East India Company that created the problem of illegal migration at least into Assam, by bringing the Bengali Muslim peasants from East Bengal to Brahmaputra Valley at the beginning of the 19th century (Rammohan, 2006: 17). The
1905 partition of Bengal may be considered as one of the most important events in the context of forced migration in today‘s Bangladesh (Barman, 2004: 161). It introduced a strong divisive communal feeling between Hindus and Muslims, which was skillfully cemented by the British through the grant of ‘separate electorate’. It is a well know fact that in “different parts of the newly created province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, communal riots occurred both for and against this division, leaving a deep sense of insecurity in the psyche of Hindu population causing migration of a section of them, particularly members of elite class, to the western part of Bengal” (Ibid: 161).
Josy Joseph has written a seminal research article (Joseph 2006) in which he has examined at length the manner in which securitization of migrations and various related issues has taken place over a long period of time. Joseph applies the argument of ‘securitization’ and ‘desecuritization’ of the Copenhagen School of IR for his analysis and draws some interesting conclusions. This section draws extensively from this research in support of its key argument. One of the major victims of securitization by the British through speech act was Assam, largest of the north-eastern state of India and one of the biggest victims of the illegal migration. Joseph (Ibid.) refers to C.S Mullen, the census commissioner of Assam, who was the first British officers to record the impact of migration. Mullen once said that, “the massive migration of Bangladeshis looked like a marvel of administrative organization on the part of government but it is nothing of the kind; the only thing I can compare it to is the mass movement of a large body of ants” (cited in Joseph 2006: 5). It was during 1920 that the first wave of migrants from Bangladesh was noticed in Goalpara, located near the present day border between India and Bangladesh. The migrant population grew to half a million in the next decade and by 1936, was in possession of 37.7 percent of land in Nowgong district of Assam. In the Nowgong district alone, the number of settlers in Nowgong rose from 300000 to half a million between 1921and 1931. On the occasion of the 1931 census of Assam Mullen declared that the “immigrant‘s army has almost completed the conquest of Nowgong by declaring issue of migration as political” and “hungry Bengali immigrants, mostly Muslims from the districts of eastern Bengal have invaded “vast horde of land” in Assam.” Deploying the geopolitics of fear, Mullen predicted that the invasion by the migrants “would destroy the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilization”. He was not the only one however to engage in the politics of fear. As shown by J.N Dixit (1999) the Assam nationalist also joined as ‘securitizing actor‘ and it was due to the pressure exerted by them that a system called the ‘Line System‘ was introduced. This allowed migration to certain areas marked by British line. This was followed by the Colonization Scheme, introduced by the British in 1928 with the intention of limiting the impact of the cross-border migration to the border areas. Despite all this, the Assam nationalists refused to give up their securitizing speech act, which, with the passage of time, became increasingly aggressive. Consequently, as Joseph points out:
With a present day population of 25 million, Assam is a state dominated by several tribes speaking Bodo and its dialects Ahom, Tiwa, Rabha and Mishing. Assam has a minority Assamese speaking Muslims who are looked up on with sympathy by the locals, reflecting the traditional tolerance that the original inhabitants of the state had. Such tribal affinities and bonding are visible across the northeast of India. The Bengali speaking Muslims, migrating from East Bengal, are usually at the receiving end of the distrust and easily identifiable due to their dress, language and every other aspect of daily life (Ibid: 13).
The ruling Muslim league introduced Land Settlement Policy in 1941, permitting migrants in Assam to settle down in government land anywhere. The moment resistance came from local people came against migration, one of the justifications offered in support of the permission granted was that this policy of allowing immigrants into Assam was integral to the effort of Muslim League to help British in World War II and that immigrants would prove to be most helpful in cultivating more food during the war period (Ibid.). Looking for some of the root causes of fear inducing, and according to some ‘intractable problem of illegal migrants‘, one can see how politicians of different parties can be held responsible for “initiating and sustaining migratory flows from erstwhile East Bengal and present Bangladesh” (Jha, 2003:136). Sanjoy Hazarika (2000) in his book titled Rites of Passage, cites a letter written by the Chief Minister of Assam, Mohammad Saadulla in 1945 to Liaquat Ali Khan, a close associate of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, mentioning that “in the lower district of Assam Valley, these Bengali immigrants Muslims have quadrupled (increases fourfold) the Muslim Population during the last 20 years” (Ibid: 74). The second important event which caused a massive flow of migration was of course the birth of Pakistan following the 1947 partition of India, leading subsequently to
communal riots. A large scale migration of Hindus from erstwhile East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to India took place under such complex and compelling circumstances that immigrants had to leave their homeland without settling their properties (Barkat, 1977). Pranati Datta (2004) argues that the population movement that took from ‘East Bengal‘ to ‘India‘ under most tragic circumstances took place under the ‘new‘ criteria of ‘legality‘ and ‘illegality‘. Between 1947 to 1971, over 4.7 million Hindus sought refuge in India. As pointed out by Guha Roy (2003:165) “when the Liberation War of Bangladesh began, the military of Pakistan used unprecedented force and terror to smash it which compelled about 10 million people to cross over to India in 1971. Many of such refugees returned to Bangladesh after the end of Liberation War in 1971, but a considerable undocumented segment stayed back and mixed with the mainstream of India‘s life”.
It did not take long for the central government of newly independent India to feel the effect of Assam‘s local resistance. The official acknowledgement of the problem came in 1950 in the form of Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act 1950, which distinguished between Hindu and Muslims. Whereas Hindus were considered as Refugees, Muslims were considered as illegal aliens. Notwithstanding the legislation, by the early 1960‘s, a new wave of migration was taking place. The 1961 census of India stated, on the basis of experience during enumeration as well as during tabulation, that since people did not correctly furnish their place of birth, the interpretation of data turned out to be rather limited. It was further pointed out that while Hindus readily acknowledged that they belonged to East Pakistan almost every Muslim in Assam expressed the view that he/she belonged to Assam (Ibid). The Assam state government passed in 1964 the Prevention of Infiltration from Pakistan (PIP) Act which was taken my some analysts as far more secular in comparison to existing law of 1950, which distinguished between the Hindus and the Muslim. Thanks to 1964 law, a special border police force of about 2000 men was raised and as many as 159 observation towers were built along the Indo-Bangladesh border, along with six passport checking centers. As pointed out by Joseph (2006) building towers and checking centers was first among a series of securitization steps undertaken by the federal government. Whereas the reality on ground was that since independence, both in Assam as well in West Bengal, the strategic importance of the Bangladeshi illegal immigrants as an important vote bank had come to be widely acknowledged in nearly 60 assembly constituencies. An obvious testimony to the power of vote bank is that the former Chief Minister of Assam Hiteshwar-Saikia (belonging to the Congress party) decided to replace the statement made by him earlier that ‘there were 30 lakhs (3 million) illegal immigrants in Assam‘ with the statement that ‘there was not a single illegal immigrants in the state‘. Quite obviously, the phenomena of illegal migration had come to be seen as strategic by many politicians in Assam, West Bengal and Tripura, in order to secure ‘winning votes’ in assembly and local elections (Jha, 2003). Following the 1965 war with Pakistan, India‘ perception of its border with East Pakistan became overwhelmingly security centric. It was during this period that Border Security Force (BSF) was raised and assigned the task of border management; a task continues to perform along a ‘border’ that is highly challenging both geographically and geopolitically. However, it was post-1971 period that turned out to be quite crucial. Around that time, the population of Bangladesh was about 75 million. Nearly 10 million refugees, in a bid to escape the brutalities of the Pakistani military regime, fled into the Indian states bordering Bangladesh. According to some estimates, at least one million decided to stay back in India and decided never to return to Bangladesh. Sanjoy Hazarika (2000:5) has insightfully argued that, “Preceding and consequent to that tragic chapter (1971) in the life of the subcontinent, the movement of people for economic and environmental reasons was (and continues to be) a factor in the Brahmaputra, and Barak valleys, in tiny Tripura, not to speak of West Bengal and even across India. Visibly reshaping and transforming the demographic, ethnic, linguistic and religions profile of larger parts of the population in these areas, it stirred a potent brew of hatred suspicion and fear” (Ibid).
Commenting on the state and status of illegal migration issues in India‘s Northeast, Arun Shourie (1993) wrote: “The Illegal immigration from Bangladesh into the eastern and north-eastern states and several other states in the country has come a serious problem. Immigration into border states such as Assam and West Bengal was taking place prior to the formation of Bangladesh but the magnitude of the problem has assumed serious dimensions as large scale infiltration has changed the demographic landscape of the borders, and affected Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra etc.” He further argued that, “The simmering communal tension is some of the border areas are one of the manifestation of the effects of large scale illegal migration of Bangladesh nationals who have slowly displaced or dispossessed the local population, particularly those belonging to the Hindu community, in these areas”( ibid:269-270).
In 1998, the Governor of Assam, S.K. Sinha submitted a report to the President of India In the report, the concern over illegal immigration from Bangladesh was stressed. It was written that: “The unabated influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh into Assam and the consequent perceptible change in the demographic pattern of the State has been a matter of grave concern. It threatens to reduce the Assamese people to a minority in their own State, as happened in Tripura and Sikkim. There is a tendency to view illegal immigration into Assam as a regional matter affecting only the people of Assam. Its more dangerous dimensions of greatly undermining our national security are ignored. The long-cherished design of Greater East Pakistan/Bangladesh, making in-roads into (the) strategic land link of Assam with the rest of the country, can lead to severing the entire land mass of the North- east, with all its rich resources from the rest of the country. They will have disastrous strategic and economic consequences” (cited in Nandy: 105-106). A year later, in 1999, West Bengal's Chief Minister Jyoti Basu described illegal flows from Bangladesh as “a major headache for many Indian cities.” He noted that after negotiations with Dhaka illegal border crossers would be deported (internet source: Rediff 1999). In 2001 the Government of India issued a report on Reforming the National Security System. The report was written by a number of ministers directed by Lal Krishna Advani, the then Indian Deputy Prime Minister under BJP. The report underlined that:
Illegal immigration from across our borders has continued unabated for over five decades. We have yet to fully wake up to the implications of the unchecked immigration for the national security. Today, there are about 15 million Bangladeshis, 2.2 million Nepalese, 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils and about 1 lakh (100,000) Tibetan migrants living in India. Demographic changes have been brought about in the border belts of West Bengal, several districts in Bihar, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya as a result of large-scale illegal migration. Even states like Delhi, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been affected. Such large-scale migration has obvious social, economic, political and security implications. There is an all-round failure in India to come to grips with the problem of illegal immigration. Unfortunately, action on this subject invariably assumes communal overtones with political parties taking positions to suit the interest of their vote banks. The massive illegal immigration poses a grave danger to our security, social harmony and economic well being (quoted in Nandy 2001: 60).
The report portrays illegal immigration from Bangladesh as a threat to national security in terms of demographic, strategic and economic consequences. It is underlined that a massive influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants is a step towards a greater Bangladesh. The report focuses on the fact that disconcern for illegal immigration from Bangladesh might lead to a territorial loss. In light of these concerns, several strategies for border reinforcement were proposed. The report further stated that: “Considering the large-scale immigration, several border reinforcement strategies were proposed. A border fence may be a full proof method of preventing infiltration but there is no better way of doing so. To be effective, border fencing has to be supplemented by vigorous patrolling and other measures. The motivating factors behind infiltration must be addressed. If this can be done successfully, then a permanent solution of the problem can be found. Additional BSF battalions should be provided in the East with each battalion having a frontage of 30 kilometers.”
Two years later, in 2003, the government in New Delhi, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ordered the BSF to further strengthen the border security with additional 50,000 troops. According to Willem van Schendel (2005: 221), this situation cultivated a sense of Indian nationalism and generated fear in Indian society Human Right Watch (2010) would express its concern a few years later in 2007, that the BSF was perhaps thinking of implementing a shoot to kill policy against the illegal Bangladeshi border crossers. A key justification that was offered in support of this action was that many of those who were crossing the borders were ‘terrorists‘. Further investigations by the Human Rights Watch suggested that a vast majority of border crossers were unarmed (Ibid).
It is useful to pause for a while and be reminded that during late 1990s an intensive debate took place among policymakers over alternative border reinforcement strategies in order to address the issue of illegal migration flows from Bangladesh. In 1998, one of the BJP district secretaries, Biswaroop Bhattacharya was cited as having recommended that one of the most effective ways of preventing illegal flows was to make the lives of illegal immigrants more difficult (India Today, 1998). An IPS, EN Rammohan while sharing his experience in a report (1997) explicitly stated that:
… as additional S.P. in 1968 in Nowgaon, I did not see a single Bangladeshi village in Jagi Road or in Kaziranga. In 1982, when I was posted as DIGP, Northern Range, Tezpur, five new Bangladeshis Muslim villages had come up near Jagi Road and hundreds of families had built up their huts encroaching into the land of the Kaziranga Game Sanctuary". He mentioned that in 1971 the large island of Chawalkhoa comprising 5000 bighas of land was being cultivated by Assamese villagers from Gorukhut and Sanuna and went on the state, "In 1982 when I was posted as DIGP, Tezpur, there was a population of more than 10,000 immigrant Muslims on the island. The pleas of the Assamese villagers to the District Administration to evict those people from the island fell on deaf ears. Any honest young IAS, SDO of Mangaldoi Sub-division who tried to do this, found himself transferred. In
1983 when an election was forced on the people of Assam… the people of the villages living on the banks of the Brahmaputra opposite Chawalkhoa attacked the encroachers on this island, when they found that they had been given voting rights by the Government. It is of interest that Assamese Muslims of Sanuna village attacked the Bengali Muslim encroachers on this island. I am a direct witness to this” (cited in Governor of Assam Report, 1998).
Baljit Rai (1993) warned Muslims from Bangladesh repeat fear narratives in west Bengal for several electoral cycles. Rai (1991) warned that allowing these ‘cancerous morons into India is fraught with gravest threats to our very existence’. Crush & Ramachandran (2010) compare this period as similar to the xenophobia and vilification of Zimbabweans in South Africa in the early 1990 and of efforts in Nigeria, Ghana and Mozambique in the 1970s and 1980s to expel or kill informal migrants. Upadhyaya (2006) notes that Bangladeshi vilification was used to particular effect to securitize migration from a mobility based to a threat based narrative as Bangladeshis were framed as anti-national Muslim ‘enemies’ conjuring historical invasions to argue that those responsible for the (fictional) ‘Talibanization of Bangladesh‘ were now infiltrating India. After fire bands successfully framed Bangladeshis migrants as a dangerous anti-India group, then Prime Minister P.V Rao launched Operation Push Back, an anti-immigration deportation program so draconian that human rights organization South Asia Citizens Web (1992) Called it ‘inhuman, condemnable and unthinkable in this century’.
Behind various statements, speeches and pronouncements invoking fears and anxieties are highly complex factors and forces. One of the important driving factors behind such migration flows according to Dalem Barman (1983) is that soon after becoming independent Bangladesh adopted the policies of secularism under the leadership of Sheikh Muzibur Rehman. But this was to change completely after his assassination in 1975. One after the other, various military regimes played the Islamic card in pursuit of power and privilege in the country and invoked through this process a feeling of fear and insecurity in the minds of the minority Hindu population. Before 1971, a major role in this regard had been played by the ‘Enemy Property Act’, promulgated in 1965 by the Pakistan government. This act regarded India as an enemy country. As per this law any Pakistani citizen living in India was to be deprived of his/her land, buildings, firms and companies in Pakistan. These were to be taken over by the custodian of Enemy Property for Control and Management Act. Little doubt, in independent Bangladesh, India was no longer considered as the enemy, but the act was allowed to exist with a different name: the ‘Vested Property Act‘. It has been by many analysts that this “act is a very powerful instrument that works as a cause of migration towards India” (Ibid).
As pointed out by a number of scholars (Booth 2007; Furedi 2005; Booth & Wheeler 2008) the feeling of insecurity involves living in a state of fear with alleged dangers arising from one or more types of perceived threats. As we would argue and illustrate in various sections of this work, ‘threats’ perceived from climate change can and should not be divorced from daily insecurities to which millions of migrants and refugees are subjected in various parts of the world, including South Asia. For these millions on the margins of affluence, real threats emanate from structural oppression and violence such as poverty and social hierarchies. “Sub state groups in South Asia such as caste or religion based communities, gendered groups, ethnic minorities or socio-economic groups (for the purposes of this work ‘environmental/climate migrants’/ ‘climate refugees’) battle with a range of insecurities in relation to their physical, social political economic survival and well being” (Barthwal Datta, 2012:1).
What this chapter has shown so far is that the phenomenon of ‘ illegal migration‘ and the figure of ‘illegal migrant’ are implicated in a highly nuanced process of bordering and othering in South Asia, which is also interlinked with the logics and events associated with ‘partition’. After all, all borders symbolize as well as exercise some forms of control. These border control strategies include more visible passport controls and/or customs checks. In cases of violation, those proved guilty are put in detention centers or deported. For example, the NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee decided to amend the passport (Entry into India) Amendment bill that provides for five years imprisonment for those who violate the law. One among several examples is when in 1996; the Delhi Police rounded up 200 Bangladeshis and put them into a train heading towards the Bangladesh border.
Willem van Shendel (2005: 40) argues that “The border stands precariously between the legitimate sovereignty of the state and a shadowy outer world of more or less organized crime.” In July 2012, India‘s northeast large scale communal disruption as violence broke out amongst the Muslim migrants and the Bodoland tribes. More than hundred people were killed and 400,000 were displaced and forced to seek shelter in refugee camps. In the wake of this incident, riots broke out in other parts of Assam, Mumbai, and Gujarat. In Assam, people were angry with the government for having ignored for so long the issue of illegal migration; an issue that many perceived as a national security threat (Tarini Dhody, 2010). The dominant media discourse was that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh were a serious and long standing problem for the Assamese people. What the media did not report was that some of the Bodo tribes launched the attack against the Muslims, and this was one of the major reasons leading to the riots. Turning a blind eye to the other side of the story, many analysis‘s, along with certain sections of media described Assam 2012 riots as a case of Muslim violence against indigenous Hindu tribes. What was so conveniently glossed over by some was that according to Human Rights Watch (2010) Indian border agents had shot down more than 1.000 people over the last decade at India Bangladesh borders. Laçin İdil Öztig (2013:25) has argued that, “There is no report that Indian authorities have given a shoot to kill order to border agents. However, no Indian border guard has been condemned or imprisoned so far for the arbitrary killings which took place at the border.” In his view, “Even though International Law does not condone states for indirect deaths caused by border practices, I argue that all forms of border reinforcement are problematic from an ethical perspective. The exclusion of illegal border crossers is justified evoking the sovereignty principle which states that countries should have full control over their territory. According to this view, borders are under territorial jurisdiction of states and border practices derive from the very sovereign right of states” (ibid: 29).
The issue of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Refugees is one of the more serious and complex issues between India and Bangladesh. During the British era, the CHT Administrative Act (1990) was put into effect to give the local tribes of CHT certain rights over land. The intention was to accord a special status to the tribesman with the guarantee that non-tribal‘s would not be permitted to purchase any cultivable land in the region. In case the presence of any outsider (i.e., non-tribal people) was found to be detrimental to the tribal interests they would be compelled to leave the area (Kumar, 2009). As shown by Dalem Barman (1983) there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that these special privileges were systematically underlined by the Pakistan Government after 1947. As a result of the decision to construct Kaptai Hydroelectric project and implement certain ‘constitutional measures‘ almost 100,000 tribal people were displaced and became homeless. The so-called constitutional measures included abolishment of the ‘excluded area’ status of the district, followed by the dismantling of tribal administration and the transfer of tribal officers to other districts. When Bangladesh was formed, some hoped that the Chakmas would get fair treatment. But this was not to be the case. The unfavorable policies of the governments of Bangladesh, one after the other forced these tribal communities to move from the CHT region to neighboring states of India. . As early as 1960s, some 25,000 Chakmas were displaced in Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, largely due to the construction of dam on the Karnaphuli River. Those displaced were seen as typical environmental Denied proper compensation; they moved to India and close to the border with China, settled down in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh. They were denied access to governmental facilities, schools and even proper medical care. Soon their population swelled to over 70,000 and India‘s Supreme Court had to intervene to say that even if they were not citizens, it was the responsibility of the State to protect them. In 1978, another group of Chakmas was forced to migrate to India. The Bangladeshi Army cracked down on the Buddhist Chakmas demanding rights over their forests and land, and drove out more than 25,000 into Indian state of
Tripura. Only after India exerted pressure on Bangladesh and Chakma leaders that some of them could return to their homelands.