Professor Paula Banerjee, best known for her work on women in borderlands and women and forced migration, is a faculty member of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Calcutta, one of the largest and oldest Universities in South Asia. She is also the Director of the avant-garde South Asian think tank called Calcutta Research Group and the President of International Association for Studies in Forced Migration. Winner of many awards and accolades, last year she was awarded the Distinguished Fulbright Chair Award and a Visiting Professorship to SUNY, Oswego. Her recent publications include Statelessness in South Asia (2016), Unstable Populations, Anxious States (edited 2013), Women in Indian Borderlands (edited, 2012) and Borders, Histories, Existences: Gender and Beyond (2010) which has been acclaimed as a best seller. She is the editor of Refugee Watch and the editorial board member of a number of international journals such as Oxford Journal of Refugees. She has written and edited over 15 books and monographs and has published widely in international journals such as Journal of Borderland Studies, Canadian Journal of Women’s Studies, Forced Migration Review and Journal of International Studies. Acknowledged as a radical and prolific speaker she has delivered lectures in all five continents. She has been a visiting professor in a number of universities including Helsinki University (Finland), Yunnan University (China) University of Paris 7 (France), New School, New York (USA) and others.
Bangladeshi and Rohingya women in Indian jails: Special tribulations of forced migration
One of the great ironies of international law is that the “other” of a citizen is neither a refugee nor a person who has dual or multiple citizenships but a stateless person. And a great fallacy of international law of statelessness is that a stateless person is defined by his/her lack. Yet to claim any legal correctives or rights the stateless person has to cite definite attributes. How can a lack be defined by attributes? This fallacy of law has given rise to animated debates between jurists, legal and rights based activists and social scientists. The backdrop of paper is the conversation that has been happening over the last few decades between lawyers and social scientists about the compulsions and the limitations of laws on statelessness. I mean to contribute to this conversation further and also to add to it a post-colonial gendered dimension. That women among the forced migrant populations are even more vulnerable than their male counterparts is an acknowledged fact. What happens when women are neither accepted by their country of origin and nor by their host communities as people who belong? Thus, two countries let them remain as “in between” people or people with indeterminate nationality/indeterminate status of statelessness, thereby adding to their vulnerability, rightlessness and discrimination. They are truly the permanent exception to any know laws of citizenship. This paper will map the trials of Bangladeshi and Rohingya people in Indian jails. In the case of Bangladeshi women their crossing of the international border without proper papers is viewed by the Indian state as a hostile and criminal act. As for Rohingya women, failing to define them as any known category of people in the grid of citizenship criminalises them automatically, thereby forcing them to live lives of perpetual punitive control. The Bangladeshi women in Indian hails usually appear without citizenship papers as do the Rohingya. Without a citizenship status they become the criminals who are in permanent states of persecution. As criminals their sexuality is considered a threat that needs to perpetually harnessed and their motherhood is questioned. In Indian jails they face violence having not only been separated from their men but also from their children. Their one act of transgression defines their future lives and makes them criminals.