Annual Orientation Course on Forced Migration, 2011
Short Term Writing Fellowship
Anwesha Sengupta: Research and Programme Assistant in MCRG and is also pursuing her Ph.D from Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, New Delhi.
&Anindita Ghoshal: Assistant Professor in Rishi Bankimchandra College, Naihati, West Bengal, India. She is pursuing her PhD on "Partition of India with a special focus on refugee movement in West Bengal, Tripura & Assam."
Changing Mentality of Bengalee Refugees: The Story of Tripura (1947-1971)
After Partition, the story of refugee influx in Tripura was the gradual dominance of the migrants over original inhabitants and therefore was unique. Tripura is the only tribal state in the bordering areas of North-Eastern part of India that received huge Hindu-Bengali speaking refugee flow from the then East Pakistan and experienced a total demographic upheavals. Unlike neighboring states like West Bengal and Assam, this ancient state of Tripura or respective Maharajas was always in favor of Bengalee settlements. Since they were chief patrons of Bengali culture (i.e. relationship with Rabindranath Tagore) and very surprisingly declared Bengali as the state language, still the educational backwardness of the tribals, absence of their knowledge concerning plough cultivation to make the most use of huge virgin wastelands, or absence of professional skills on their part were some of the prior reasons behind their warm support towards the immigrants’ permanent settlement in Tripura.
Tripura saw several waves of refugee influx, especially in consequent rioting
years in East Pakistan, as the borderlands remained open up till 1980s. Yet, the
last phase of immense forced migration through the Akhaura border was at
the time around the Liberation War of 1971, when the Central, as well as, State
Government was bound to plan for their temporary relief and rehabilitation
measures. After the emergence of Bangladesh, a huge populace stayed back, mainly
for physical and cultural proximity to their own land, although many of them as
illegal migrants initially, later managed to get their citizenship.
In such specific background, this project will make an attempt to assess why the refugees who came around 1950s got easily absorbed themselves within a tribal or at least kind of a changed society. In a more wise way, they thus overturned Tripura’s demography, economy, culture and political system. But, the scenario changed gradually from 1960s, when the tribals became vocal about their deserving rights in their own land, indeed protested against State’s initiative towards sheltering huge Chakma refugees again from CHT. The first generation Bengali refugees also eventually refused to extend their hands for the permanent settlement of their fellow brethrens. So, this project will aim to measure how the effort of survival against all odds change the psychological nature of a community, or the consequent trauma dominated their emotion in such a way that their concept of ‘own’ has changed from the identity of a desh to individual security. This research work would seek definite answers to these unique problems and attempts will be made to explore the inherent elements in this broader subject.
Her Visiting Report (21.02.2012 to 27.02.2012)
Two young researchers, Anwesha Sengupta, Research Assistant, CRG, and Anindita Ghoshal, Assistant Professor, Rishi Bankim College, Naihati, West Bengal were awarded short-term field visit grants under the orientation course programme.
Ms Sengupta in her research deals with the migration of Muslims from India to Pakistan, especially from eastern India to East Pakistan, which is a less worked area in partition studies. There are obvious reasons. The Indian archives are largely silent about this as the trek of the Muslims towards Pakistan reveals, at one level, the limitations of ‘secular’ India, and at another, the failure of the government to protect the citizens. In Bangladesh, too, scholars have very rarely spoken about the refugee flow from India after 1947, though the national archives of Bangladesh have rich, but fragmented, material on this. In the nationalist frame of thought, the history of India ends in 1947 with the collapse of British Empire in South Asia. The history text books seldom explores the post-colonial times. Similarly, in the nationalist frame of Bangladesh academia, the language movement and the liberation war loom large. The ‘second’ partition’ (1947) is almost forgotten by the people. However, the materials that were consulted during this short field trip to the Dhaka archives provided important insights about the experiences of ‘Indian’ Muslims during partition and after. The major questions that guided this archival research were about the nature of violence on Muslims in West Bengal and eastern India, their migrations to East Bengal and their rehabilitation there. During this short trip, files under the Confidential Report Branch within Political Department between 1947 and 1952 were consulted.
Ms Ghoshal indicates that after Partition the story of the refugee influx in Tripura was one of gradual dominance of migrants over original inhabitants and was, therefore, unique. Tripura is the only tribal state in the bordering areas of North-Eastern part of India that received a large number of Hindu Bengali-speaking refugees from East Pakistan and experienced a total demographic upheaval. Tripura saw several waves of refugee influx, as the borderlands remained open till the 1980s. Yet, the last phase of immense forced migration through the Akhaura border was at the time of Liberation War (1971), when the central and state governments had to provide them temporary relief and rehabilitation. After the emergence of Bangladesh, many stayed back, often as illegal immigrants who later managed to get their citizenship. This project made an attempt to assess why the refugees who came in the 1950s got easily absorbed in a different, predominantly tribal, society. However, from the 1960s, the tribals became vocal about their rights in their land and protested against the state’s initiative to rehabilitate a large number of Chakma refugees from the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The first generation of Bengali refugees also showed no sympathy towards the refugees who came later. This project explored various efforts of the refugees for survival in an unfavourable situation and how it altered the psychological nature of a community.