Updated: Nov 30, 2020
This talk would focus on a little-known group of stateless people in South Asia, many of whom have already died over more than 50 years, while the remaining seem doomed to meet the same fate. It would trace the predicament of the indigenous Buddhist stateless Chakma refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan, who have been leading a stateless and rightless existence in the north-eastern Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh bordering China. Entrapped in a state of 'liminality', the current 'betwixt and between' status of the minority ethnic Buddhist Chakma refugees seems to have clearly become a never-ending feature of their lives. The story of the stateless Chakmas can thus be seen as a textbook example of how an awfully wrongly drawn political boundary could inexorably push a whole community of people into the throes of an unending cycle of painful transition that they seem to have virtually got lost in the process. Ironically, the Chakmas have had no say whatsoever in any of these episodes of transition, which have progressively worsened their plight from one stage to another. It is this spiral of transition that this talk would try to untangle, with a view to chronicling the chequered lifeworld of the stateless Chakma refugees.
Deepak K Singh is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh. His research interests include migration and refugee studies, politics and ethnicity in Northeast India and postcolonial politics in South Asia. He is the author of Stateless in South Asia: The Chakmas between Bangladesh and India (Sage, 2010) and has contributed several research papers in reputed journals and edited volumes. Deepak has been a visiting faculty at Yale University and has delivered several lectures, seminars and workshops at Universities in India and abroad.
Abeer Gupta is currently the director of the Krishnakriti Foundation in Hyderabad and the Achi Association India in New Delhi and Leh. His research is based in the western Himalayas, in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir. His publications include, The Visual and Material Culture of Islam in Ladakh (2014), Discovering the Self and Others in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (Sage, 2014), and A Sense of Place: Islam in the Western Himalaya (Marg, 2018). Abeer was fortunate to spend time in Mizoram, when he documented the crafts of the Chakmas, in 2012 for a IGNCA-NID project - his introduction and interest in the subjects stems from that time.