THROUGH a historical and analytical explanation of the human predicament due to the mass displacement in the history of modern South Asia, the book deals with two specific categories of marginalised people – the Chakma refugees and the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh – who do not fit into the conventional framework of hierarchical structures of dominant-subordinate relationship.
Hailing originally from the upland areas of what is now Bangladesh and previously East Pakistan, the Chakmas were displaced by a massive hydroelectric project which inundated their fields and submerged their villages. The completion of this Kaptai reservoir in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in early 1961 rendered some 100,000 people ‘environmental refugees’. In the absence of adequate compensation and consistent subjugation to political and religious persecution at the hands of the East Pakistani regime, whose singular interest in the region was the land and not its non-Muslim ethnic inhabitants, some 340,000 Chakmas sought refuge in India in 1964. The Buddhist Chakmas constitute the single largest ethnic block of affected people to become landless with their prime cultivable land submerged in water. They came across the border into India in search of homes and livelihoods.
This book shows how the Chakma issue has become a classic case of political apathy on the part of the modern post-colonial states in South Asia where both refugees and the indigenous people, marginalised in their own peculiar way, find themselves intertwined in a conflict over control of resources for which neither is responsible.
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