Culture, Conflicts and Victimisation

The global interconnection can have several dimensions; cultural, social, political and economic. In fact some people fear cultural and social integration even more than economic integration. The fear of ‘cultural hegemony’ hunts many. Human trafficking, forced labour, exploitation of migrant labour, sexual slavery are some of the most violent forms of rights violations. Migrant workers from interstates and mostly from Asian countries likeIndonesia,Sri Lankaand thePhilippinesare subject to exploitation.

The data from which the estimate derives cover the study reference period of 2002- 2011. The estimate shows that 20.9 million people, or around three out of every 1,000 workers worldwide, were subjected to forced labour at any instant during this decade. This figure represents a conservative estimate, given the strict methodology employed to measure the largely-hidden crime.

In India, according to the Planning Commission’s XIth Plan Document, employment in the  construction sector have around 33 million people, and  these workers belong to one of the most vulnerable segments of unorganised labour in the country. The Delhi High Court appointed a monitoring committee which submitted a study report showing the abysmal conditions of these vulnerable sections. The provisions of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act (1979) has openly flouted their minimum wages, overtime payments, weekly holidays, housing and other social security benefits.. In the course of the hearings approximately 140 deaths of workers at construction sites were reported. Yet government agencies turned blind eye to this tragedy. Migrant workers in general constitute a susceptible social category with little capacity to bargain for their constitutional rights as workers. Results, these segments are forced to work and live under deplorable conditions.

Myanmar

The sectarian unrest viewed from a different angle is also a manifestation of internal rivalry between different social groups. Cultural contestations also play a role in building up the tension. Ethnic cleansing is a modern term but it has a long history. The unprotected communities always become victims of oppression and extra judicial killings as seen inMyanmarandIndia’s North East. The Buddhist-majority government ofMyanmarrefuses to recognize Rohingyas and classifies them as illegal migrants, although the Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated toMyanmaras early as the 8th century. The UN human rights authorities point the finger of blame at Myanmarese security forces, which are believed to have been targeting the Muslims rather than bringing the violence to an end. According to reports, thousands ofMyanmar’s Rohingyas are living in dire conditions in refugee camps after government forces and Buddhist extremists started burning down their villages on August 10.

Reports say some 650 Rohingyas have been killed in the Rakhine state in the west of the country in recent months. This is while thousands are missing and lakhs have been displaced. The United Nations says decades of discrimination have left the Rohingyas stateless, with Myanmarimplementing restrictions on their movement and withholding land rights, education, and public services from them. The newly emerging power clusters and hegemonic classes resort to all means to protect their privileges, while the subservient sections are being targeted.

Assam

It’s unfortunate that the largest and the oldest plain tribe inAssamwith a rich cultural history would be known for conflicts. It has indeed been a trouble-torn past.  “The 20 percent Bodos have found themselves at war with a section of the State with devastating result. Hundreds of people lost their life and lakhs have migrated from their birth place, others languishing in refugee camps”.

The camps were lodged in schools and college buildings; sometimes a few classrooms and a courtyard were temporary home to a few thousand people. Unlike in Gujarat in 2002, theAssamstate government assumed full responsibility for the camps, and its officials coped up with the sudden explosion of four to five lakh refugees. The state supplied food, a little money for utensils and clothes, and ensured primary health protection. But the camp residents complained that they could not live on just bare rice and dal everyday; they needed at least a plastic sheet to sleep on and mosquito nets; and the camps desperately required many more toilets and clean drinking water, the lack of which threatened epidemic outbreaks, of cholera, gastro-enteritis and malaria.

Children suffer a triple whammy. There are no arrangements to study in the camps, and most students lost their books to the fires that consumed their homes. Since most camps are housed in schools and colleges, local students cannot study. Adolescent boys and youth are recruited and armed to guard their villages. The state and humanitarian agencies — the latter culpably absent so far.

Parochial politics

The evolution of India’s cosmopolitism was however, stalled for the first time when, in the name of spurious sub nationalism, the composite culture based trade union movement of Bombay was challenged in the 1960’s. Earlier it had been people from Uttar Pradesh, especially eastern Uttar Pradesh, who were the targets. But todayBiharpeople have been termed ‘infiltrators’. Due to the structural deficiencies and pull factor of the Indian economy, poor unemployed people are migrating from their birth place to urban cities. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, especially clauses (d), (e), and (f) guarantees the fundamental right to move freely throughout the territory of India, to reside and settle in any part of India, and to practise any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business. But the bizarre nature of sectarianism has disturbed the coherent national identity. This situation should be changed through inflexible legal proceedings.

Jail to community re-entry

A Study of the Socio Economic Profile and Rehabilitation Needs of Muslim Community in Prisons in Maharashtra, 2011, by Dr. Vijay Raghavan and Roshni Nair of the Centre for Criminology and Justice School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), states that 96 per cent of the respondents have not been held under preventive detention charges thus indicating that they are not viewed as a threat to law and order.

Tribal communities especially adivasi people are languishing in different jails due to their poor intervention. They are unaware of the bail procedure. Result! The children of the soil are feeble to be a hand in help to their blood relatives.

It shows innocents are being targeted by the authorities because of the political compulsions or a desire to keep people in fear and the resultant passivity. The prison statistics of the sub continental states reflect not only poverty of the people behind the bars but also their under-representation and demonisation. Correctional authorities fail in their mission to return the prisoners back to the community for the same reason.

By SHARAFUDHEEN MK