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The Great Migration of 1971: II: Reception Author(s): Partha N.

Mukherji Reviewed work(s): Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 9, No. 10 (Mar. 9, 1974), pp. 399+401+403+405-408 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4363472 . Accessed: 28/11/2011 03:43
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Partha N Mukherji This is an exploratory study of the evacuees who left East Bengal after the imposition of martial law on March 25, 1971, and sought refuge in India. According to official statistics, by the second week of December 1971 about 6.8 million evacuees had been housed in camps and another 3.1 million were staying with friends and relatives. As many as 827 state camps and 19 Central camps accommodated one of the largest migrant movements in history. This three-part study concentrates on those who were temporarily settTed at the Chandpcara and Bokchora camps in the district of 24-Parganas in West Bengal. Part II examines the organisational set-up of the camps, the relations between hosts and guests in and around the camps and the adaptive capacities of the evacuees in their new environment. Part I dealt with the socio-economic background of the evacuees, the events leading to their uprootment and the trek to sanctuary. Part III will look at the migration back to Bangladesh and the manner in which it was achieved.
IN a sense the situation of the refugees of 1971 was unique. A refugee generallv carries the connotation of a permanent immigrant who has been forced to leave his country of birth out of fear of extreme persecution and The country which possible death. receives refugees, therefore, is aware of the implications of accepting a nonreturnee population. The question of rehabilitation and resettlement becomes either a national problem for the India' and recipient aountry, as in Pakistan in the past, or an international problem for the world community as in the case of post-war European refugees.2

In contrast, the Bangladesh migrants of 1971 right from the beginning were clearly and unambiguously defined as a temporary group which would be accorded hospitality bv the host countrv only until such time as they were able to go back to their country of permanent residence with dignity. Hence, the question of their rehabilitation, integration and absorption in India did not arise. It was made abundantly clear that they were to be treated as foreign nationals." This, therefore, presented a unique sitLiationwhere the evacuees would receive food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc, but would not be expected to seek any occupation or engage in anv economic activity. In effect, they wetre reduced to an economically idle and stagnant group, residing in clusters of various sizes (called camps) in identifiable areas. Not only were isolated, the evacuees economically they were also cloistered from polititical influences and activities to the

extent that this was possible. Thus in the administration of relief as a matter of official policy no political party waas allowed ,any role, nor were foreign relief agencies permitted to function at the level of evacuee camps.4 The evacuees were formally isolated as a group distinct from the surrounding 'external' environment. It is evident that the evacuees found themselves in a situation which was already defined for them. Adherence to these norms was the condition imposed by the 'hosts' in exchange for which the evacuees received 'hospitality'. For the evacuee, this was the 'price' he had to pay to 'earn' the hospitality of his hosts. Clearly, the sanction involved was the withdrawal of hospitality should a violation of norms occur. The formal pattern of relationships system and the between the host asymmetrical. guests was essentially The acceptance of the imposed norms was clearly a function of the unequal relationship between the hosts and the guests. The guest's status was peculiar in that he hardly had any rights. But he had a few clearly defined obligations which he had to accept with gratitude and deference. The reason why the host svstem imposed such restrictions is easy to discern. It tried to minimise the deleterious impact of an immigrant population of such magnitude on its own system. Struggling to manage its own inner strains, the host system attempted to isolate the new problem rather than allow it to combine with the already existing complex of problems. More specifically, the evacuees were

allowed to renmain a non-comirpetitive as group in the economy, thus keeping the balance of the labour market undisturbed. In their own country, the evacuees had been faced with imminent crisis. To them the choice clearly was between a future of uncertainty in a neighboturing country in which they could at least look forward to security of life and a future of certain persecution and possible death in their own country. Appare-ntlythe character and direction of political events in East Pakistan wvas interpreted as a crisis of such magnitude that the instinct of self-preservation dccicled for them the choice between the two alternatives. This crisis, therefore, was the causal generating factor which led to the massive exodus of nearly 10 million immigrants into India. Fbrced into economic sterility and isolated in densely clustered enclosures the immigrants were likely to generate new problems. The questions that naturally arose were: In. an environment not altogether alien, to what extent did the formalised structure of norms guide the actual behaviour pattern? What was the nature of the host and the guest systems? What kind of relationships emerged between the two systems? To answverthese questions, I concentrated on examining the organisation of relief and the social conditions in Chandpara Camp Number Two and Bokehora Camp. The former camp was near a town of the same name with some local businesses and(Ioffices, including the Development Block Centre, Gram Panchayat (local self399

ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WVEEKLY government) office, and so on. The liminaries, provide adequate shelter, latter camp was near Bokchora, about administer supply of rations, provide four kilometres from Chandpara. Al- for medical care, arrange for educathough containing a few shops, a tion of children, project the governcharitable dispensary and hospital by ment's viewpoints and efforts for prokindness of the local landlord, Bok- viding relief to them, and finally, to chora is in fact a well spread out dis- give them protection from unwanted persed village. They both lie on the elements. While the government did either jessore Road linking Calcutta and Jessore - Chandpara lying about 10 take up or intend to take up these kms and Bokchora about 14 kms 'fromn roles, it also sought the co-operation Bongaon. And both are in the Bon- of non-sectarian and non-political gaon sub-division of the district of voluntary organisations to relieve itself wherever possible of some of its 24-Parganas. During the initial stages, Chandpara Camp Number Tw7o was functions. a small camp housing a population of when the government was trying 2,041 (755 men, 786 women, 500 child- desperately to, come to grips with reality, ren) in 16 large tents and 50 small it was the voluntary efforts of these huts. Bokchora Camp in comparison organisations and the native population was relatively large with a population that sustained the early waves of immiof albout 15,000 (4,500 men, 4,500 grants. However, at the time of field women, 6,000 children), sheltered in work (December 1971) the camp admini50 large tents and 500 small huts. stration wvas working more or less on Both the camps had tubewell, latrine the formal pattern indicated earlier, and garbage disposal facilities. Each except that some of its functions were of the camps had an improvised clinic apportioned to non-sectarian, non-politiwhere a doctor would come periodi- cal voluntary organisations. cally for medical aid. A number of voluntary organisations figured in the total complex of relief roles. The Abhoy Ashram had taken THE ORGANISATION OF RELIEF up practically all the major relief The concept of the host system is roles in the two camps, barring the bound to vary depending upon the diffesupply of rations, which was underrent frames of reference within which taken by the camp administration, and
one examines it. One could conceptu-

March 9, 1974 the children's education in Bokchora, which the Ramakrishna Mission had taken up. The Gandhi Peace Foundation, Oxfam, the International Rescue Committee, Care, Caritas, contributed relief materials andlor services. The structure of relationships between the host system, comprising a constellation of organisations and the social environment, and the guests, can be seen in the flow Diagram included. The one-way flow of goods and services from various relief organisations to the guests Nvasmatched by a reverse-way movement of obligations. It is important to note how this system of relationships was maintained. It would appear that the 'investment' made by the host system was without expectations of any 'returns'. This is not entirely true. The investment was made in consideration of certain values like humanitarianism and the return came in the form of the intangible nonmaterial reward of universal social approbation from the world community. Furthermore, in the context of international relations, the form of acceptance of the humanitarian role also amounted to a rejection of conditions thrust upon India by its political neighbour. This wvasmanifested in refusing the immigrants the status of co-na-

alise the entire immigrant population as 'guests' and the total mobilisation of resources by India for the evacuees as the 'host system'. I have, howvever, chosen to confine myself to the evacuees and their social
network extensions in the two camps as representing the 'guests', and all the relevant organisations that had a





direct or indirect bearing on the maintenance of the guests as the 'host system'. Four major constituents of the host sys-tem can therefore be identified, viz, the government and its newly set uIp camp administration, the voluntary Indian- organisationis, the voluntary foreign organisations and the social environment surrounding, the guest population.




LE9w;;> 4





The Bongaon complex of camps was

taken over by the habilitation around Branch Secretariat

of the Ministry of Labour and





- -





A fresh cadre of officials and employees drawn mostly from ex-Army officers and servicemen, except for the
volunteer-level draw,n from recruits wNho were the native population, Key: Note:
R LdToO-$

formed an almost parallel administration. The role of the camp administration vis-a-vis the evacuees was to act as reception, attend to medical prne-

GPF= Gandhi POeace Ftundation OX= O Jfar, IRC= International Rescue Committee; CH= Caritas; CA =Care; RKM =Ramakrishna Mis.sion The dotted lines indicate the area of interpersonal relations or social environment. 401

ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY tionals and considering them politicallv as aliens. Therefore, the universal social approbation of the humanitarian role played by India, in effect amounted to anl implicit rejection of certain conditions imposed by Pakistani on India. In fact, the form of the, humaniitarian role had built-in symbols of rejection of the conditions imposed by Pakistan. This rejection in turn had dangerous implications for relations between India and Pakistan. Presumably it can be worked out that the form of investment in the immigrants involved a definite entrepreneurial risk in expecting favourable potical and economic outcomes. T'he possible alternatives before the host 'system from which a choice had to be made were as follows: (1) to give the immigrants the status of co-nationals and rehabilitate them into the Indian social system - an experience not alien to the subcontinent; () to grant the immigrants asylum but transfer the responsibility of their maintenance and ftutturerehabilitation to the international community; (3) to take uip the responsibility of their security and. maintenance with the cooperation of the international communitv but deny them co-nationality in consideration of prevailing social and economic conditions in the country. In the past, the subcontinent has always favoured the choice of the first alternative for major and minor influxes. It has never shirked its responsibility to the international commuinity nor is it likely that the international community wouild have been able to take up the prollems of stuch a large population. But, and this is important, in the past such movements of populations large
or small, were always a matter of twoThey had the important way traffic. of countervailing forces characteristic The last influx balancing each other. was- not only one-way, but its magniticde 'vas way ouit of bounds of permissive limits. The choice of the first alternative would have several clear implications. (1) This would be more economical as maintaining a 10 million the cost of immigrant population vith a likely increase i.n its strength woould be prohibitive. The Government of India was spending at the rate of more than Rs It wouild 18.5 million per day.5 (2) have meant accepting a situation thrust another. (3) It tipon oine country by wouild leave the couintry of asylum with less powerfuil symbols of rejection of the imposed conditions. The choice of the third alternative therefore, seen in the perspective of the first, had a more compulsive orientation towards an early solution, though at greater risk. These alterniatives do not exhaust all the logical possibilities open to India, thouigh they include all the major ones. India coiild have refused asylum to the immigrants forcing them to return or niot allowing them to cross the political T'his wvould have been in boundary. contravention of the accepted direct principle of non-refoulemenit enshrined in the Declaration of Territorial Asylum Declaration of Human based on the states that a refugee Rights, which retturned "in any manner cannot be whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life o,r freedom would b)e threatened on account of his race, religion, or membership of a particular s(cial grouip or political opinion".6 Therefore, 'it seems clear that the proper enactment of the humanitarian host role niot only had structural props in the immediate host-guest interactions, l)blt also involved a whole range of bilateral and multilateral natio.n-state interactions directed towards the attainexplicit goal - namely, ment of an the refugees to their the return of homeland.7

March 9, 1974 was concerned, he considered himself independenit and autonomous with respect to goods received specifically for
the camp he was looking after. Trhe Ashram held the view that since the relief goods were despatched in the naine of the Ashram, the Ashram had a right to take a total stock of the situation of all the three camps under its relief jurisdiction and allocate these materials and others according to the intensity of nee(ds in the different camps. This conflict was not resolved during the days I watched them as their guest and in fact it frequently erupted in unpleasant tensions. The doctors and their medical staff had more clearly defined roles, but on occasions the specificity of their roles created problems. For example, on one occasion the driver belonging to Oxfam reported to his principals that transport had been misused on one or two occasions. This resulted in a unilateral withdrawal of the transport by Oxfam witholut any enquiiry into this allegation and withouit any explanation, cauising the medical and relief services to the two camps to come to an abrupt stop. In such a situation the doctors felt very critical of Oxfam behaviour hut declined to report anything in writing either to their principals or to Abhoy Ashrarrmor to Oxfam. On this occasion, I felt compelled to intervene and helped the Ashram, take tup the matter and protest to Oxfam.

The tensions in the Ashram resolved themnselves largely because of the two kinds of leadership. While the Ashram, as a whole, functioned as a task-oriented group, the leadership roles among those working at the two camps were principal social There wN7ere two clearly differentiated. For instance, the institution in role performance of the workers who ran this social worker Bongaon. At the instance of the Ganfrom the Gandhi Peace Foundation could Foundatioan, the Ablhoy be identified in dhi Peace terms of behaviour and Ashramn volu-teered to play an active attitudes generally associated with the role in relief operations. Consequiently, instrumental leadership of a task leader it became a centre for co-ordinating the (e g, in giving suiggestions, directives, activities of the various relief agencies. opinions, taking important decisions The grouip that constittuted the relief and so on). In comparison, the lady team at the Ashram focal point presentwho was formally in charge of theed a heterogeneous lot with ill-defined Ashram clearlv acquired the expressive Thus and inconsistent role obligations. leadership of the 'sociometric star' the Gandhi Peace Foundation volunii- (characterised by "expression of emoteer clearly defied the Ashram authoritions, supportive behaviour to other.s, allegiance only to his ties, claimed the desire to please andl be liked and principals and interpreted the hospitaa more generalised liking for other lity extended to him by the Ashram as members").8 This is not to say that the his right for the serviceCs he wN renas latter dlid not perform any instrumental dering to the evactuees. The Ashram, role, but only that she was better he claimed, was *merely a receivirngr equiipped as an expressive leaader. On It point for goods to be distributed. one occasion the (Gandhi Peace Founda. had no clear claim on how the goods tion voluinteer wNenton fast as a protest were to be distribultedl. As far as he against her action in not sulpplying

Even a cursor-y perusal of the flow Diagram wvill indicate that the Abhoy Ashram at the grass roots level voluntary organisation had to play a morecomplex role than the other organisations vis-a-vis the two camps examined here. Goods and services from several organisations were fuinnelled voluntary throuigh the Ashram.



enough blankets for distribution in Bokehora camp. But her expressive leadership controlled the situation with the help of tearful and impassioned appeals and by taking recourse to a counter-fast. It was largely because of the existence of these two types of leadership that an unco-ordinated relief group was able to function with reasonable efficiency in spite of inner contradictions.

March 9, 1974
in the marketThe political institutions of the erstwhile village communities also became operative. The institution of matabbars (or village influentials) and the Union Councils (the grass roots official political institution) also movea from camp to camp where they enquired al)out their people and their difficulties. The higher status leaders from among these, who usually stayed with relatives or friends in the towns, maintainmd relationships with the camp administration and other civic authorities, anid were able to articulate some of their difficulties to them, with or without results. Although the Union Councils were defunct, they carried some of the status associated with their office, and this helped in articulation between the two formal leadership structures. They were repositories of information, becauise they were in a position to receive, collate and disseminate information through many channels. One of thbe pressing problems of the community structure was scarcity of informnationi about other members of the community, about the situation across the border, about their future prospects and so on, and in this the leadership played an important role. It helped to maintain the integrative bonds which kept the coinnmuity structutrewell tied. It will be clear, therefore, that the uprooted population was not in comnplete disarray as one nmighthave imagined. Along with the transfer of population, the transfer of the rural community structures had also taken place. The re-activation of the community structure essentially took place in terms of its principal normnativeand political institutions. It lacked one important type of institution, the economic. But this was also discernible in a residual form. The fragmentation of its ecological base and the emergence of new social formations in new settings did not lead either to a disintegration of the rural community structure, nor did the fragmentation make this structure

were greatly reduced in the camp vituation, but they performed their duty. The compounder turned 'doctor' moved in camps xvhich housed his clientele and treated patients. He was also sought sometimcs in spite of the clinics. The 'doctor' did not ask for any fees; they gave him anything they could, ranging between nothing at all to about 25 paise or more. They however tried to meet the expense of the medicines which he generally gave them.

of relatives and Frequent visits friends and overnight hospitality exThe pattern of resettlement of evato retain the cuees led to the dispersal of villages in tended to them, helped community structure at the abstract three types of settlements: in camps, sonal relations. The level of inter-per outside camps but in independent restrictions on any kind of economic units, and with friends and relatives. able-bodied population, The new formations were not 'trans- activity for an the imbalanced unnutritious diet and fers' of village communities en bloc, w'hich took an nor even 'transfers' of extended kin the consequent diseases epidemic form, must have had a very groups except accidenitally. Only the effect on the personalities household maintained its uinity and demoralising of the evacuees. And yet no cases of identity.9 In fact, single villages on disorganised or mentally imbalanced the other side of the inteimational individuals were reported to the doctor bouindary got fragmented into many attending the clinics in the two camps. parts. The camps thuts were formed This can be attributed to the mechanof several and sometimes many fragism of the revival of the community rziented villages. This is clear from the significant data presented in Part I of Chandpara structure which played a tension-management role. camp inmates. It is also important to note that the One of the earlier processes amongst void created by a ban on economic the evacuees was to re-establish the activities gen,erally tended to be filled network of community ties. As soon by increased social interaction. Thus as the evacuees got allocated to spetime expended in the exchange of goods cific camps, they took the first opportunity to establish communication and and services was now expended on an contact with kinsmen and acquaintan- exchange of visits. Such exchanges ces spread over many camps. It is Nvere facilitated by violations of norms
amazing hoNv 8 to 12 weeks Chchianobboi established. within a brief period of the extant ties of the Gram region were reAlmost all relatives and Thus they which were overlooked. could travel free of charge in the trains. Private buses however could not afford to overlook such violations.

friends were located withiin the district of 24-Parganas although th,ey were scattered in at least three camps each
in Basirhat, Barasat and Bongaon subdivisions, 12 camps in Gaighata and one camp in Barrackpore sub-divisions. Once the contacts were re-established the network of social ties was re-activated althouigh uincder vastly changed

Thus the jain/ani relationships became operative as soon as deaths occurred or marriages took place. Each of the sdeduled castes seemed to have their own 'Brahmins' or priests. The priests of the Rishis and Namasudras informed me that they were called by their jaimants several times from different camps, generally to perform the
*shradh (cremation) ceremony. Occa-

sionally they presided over stray cases

of marriage. The customary gifts and

fees w'hich they receivedl in the village

The purely non-economic interactions were the first phase of the reactivation of the community structure. Once :he a normative. pattern of visits became and sharing mutuality of expectations of common experiences, they developed of economic sub-structures normative Thus if the ration of one interactions. camp included potatoes and not puilses whereas a physically distant but socially its ration the camp had promixate other way round, such visits also facilitated an exchange of ration items to by stereotype diet. Also, vary their November, they were being given cash at tvo rupees per head per week. This enabled some circulation of money and allowed some economic exchanges not only with the external market but also and friends. Apart among relatives from the cash they received as relief, many were able to bring some money across the bJordler,wvhich also circulated

The tra:isfer of community structures; andI the interactions which gave definition to it in a new context does not imply that new structures did not deve. lop in the camps. The sharing of cormmon experiences of uprootment and the fact of neighb)ourly placements led to the sharing and solving of common problems. Thus there wvereproblems of sanitation andl hygiene, of resolution of
conflict amlonlg camlpers, of countering


March 9, 1974
exploitation by the camrp administration, of keeping vigilance in the camp, These needs threw up a and so on. leadership on the pattern of matabbars in the village context. They were accepted as the representatives of the camp and decisions vis(-a-v7s the outer environiment which affected camip life in general Nvere articulated through them. It is interesting to note that the camp matabbars had almost all been matabbars in their respective village contexts. The camp population was aware of the nolms guiding leader-follower roles. In addition, a group of youLng men from the camps wvere trained by the Gandhi Peace Foundation in certain leadership roles involving the maintenance of saniitation in the camps with the co-operation of the camp inmates.

ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY tide over his period of punishment. Howvever, it is important to record the sharp cleavage between the volunteer-teachers (also evacuees but not living in the camnpyand the inmates of Chandpara camp. There was a general feeling among the caimlp inmates that these volumteer-teachers were not seriotis about their teachingr role and that the chil(ldreii of the agegroup four to 12 wvere not seriously taught by them althouigh they were being paid by the Gandhi Peace Fouindation for this. The undercutrrent of tension became manifest when the 'school' was giveni a transistor radio by the Abhoy Ashram, which was supposed to teachers but be in the care of the which was also supposed to be tine,d for the benefit of the entire camp especially for the news and music, etc. The teachers monopolised the radio, played it continuouisly while their openair mango-grove classes were supposed to be cloing some seriouis teaching work and took it home with them after school hours (vhich xwere about two hours in the mornil1g). This irked the camnp and its leadership and they reported the matter to the Ab'hoy Ashramii. The teachers reacted by charging the camp committee of the evacuees with corruption. This led to an unpleasant situation and the teachers became even more indifferent towards their teaching commitments. The Abhoy Ashram ianvestigated the matter and urged the teachers to take their teaching work more seriotusly, while at the same time they requieste(d the camp committee to be more careful abou-t collecting futinds anid spending them. During the brief period of my stay, I could observe the sense of suiperiority which the teachers tried to display in their behaviour an(d how the camp inmates respon(led by open ridlicule of their superciliotusness. time, as the Camp Commandant durinig that period clearly felt that such dlisplays of merriment were not in accord with the miserable status of an evacuee. The evacuee was not only in misery, he should appear to be in misery. Thus Bokchora camiip, wlich was rich in traditionial theatrical talents (jatra), was considerably subdiued in articulating them for fear of the camp authorities.

There were other activities: A few small shops had sprung up in both the economic camps, providing a skeletal institution. At least two marriages had taken place in Chandpara and one in Bokchora. In Bokchora it was reported to be the consummation of the bethothai ceremony which had already taken place befo,re their flight. However, the in the camps N-as The leadership camp authorities took such a seriois singularly characterised by an absence view of this act of intransigence that of factionalism. There was general unthe newly-weds were promptly deprivanimity and consenstus about the decied of their ration for several weeks. Tn sion-making role. However, in the aball these marriages, the camp comsence of any economic sub-system in muniity contributed and participated. any formal or social-instittutional sense However, it must also be recorded of the termn, the leadership role wvas that camp life during the rainy season limited to a minimiial number of areas. was one of acute suffering. Many These areas couild easily be identified.. children died. Rain water made inFirst, quarrels on accouniit of inmates roadls into the camps, bringing in floator cleanliniess norms violating hygiene ing feces, garbage and filth, exuding taken and effectively were promptly the most obnoxious stench. Most of the care of. Thus, not infrequently, especialtents leaked. Many evacuees left the ly in the earlier stages of camp life, tha camps to settle on elevated areas near feces of children defecating in one houserailway tracks and on both sides of the be surreptitiously hold unit would road. Life Nvas utterly disorganised durdeposited niear a neighbouring houseing those two rainy months of June hold unit. In such cases the violator and July. It was only after the rains would be identified and made to clean that camp life once again settled down up the mess. This problem improved to some kind of an organised exiswith the inculcation of new norms and tence. One permanent contribution of the improvement in sanitary facilities. thle rainy season was the highly inIn this the Gand'hi Peace Foundation fectious skin disease which spared from the camps volunteers recruited none and which the evactuees carried leadership of the matabbar and the hack home as one of their mementoes. camps plaved a usefuil role. Thtus, throuigh privation and adaptation, the camps acquired the attributes An importanit role of the camp Finially, the leadership of the cam-lp of a commtunity, of 'belongingness' and leadership was to counter the frequent played an important role in surveying identification in the sharing of a comand often arbitrary use of sanctions by and helping to distribute relief matemon state of indefiniteness and unc-rthe camp administration. Thus, confisrial to the camp inmates. Grievances tainty. cation of ration cards or partial reducin the matter of receiving relief mnatetion in the amount of ration for speciThe important questions, which to rials were directed to them and they the leadership fied periods activated my mind shotuld guide future research, usuially solved them within the conrole. On such occasions the leadership Just as the community structures are: straints of scarce relief materials. rather employed emotional appeals in East Pakistan were 'transferred' to than pressure tactics - which took thie Religious ceremonies were one of the India without their ecological base, form of pleadings and apologies to resimportant ways in which the camp inwvould the community structures of the The confiscation of tore the rations. mates felt they could alleviate the camp also 'travel' to Bangladesh having meagre rations for any period of time drudgery of a static, sterile life. HIere lost their ecological base there? What was a severe blow to the evacuee. the Chandpara camp was better off. It kind of transformations would occur in Hence the leadership role in this area raised small contributions and organisthe pattern of relationships established was most important and valued. Also, ed such functions. The leadership playin India? In other words, would the the leadership on such occasions ared an active role in this. The inmates universe of social interaction of thb rangedl for the sharing of rations so of the Bokchora cam-p were less fortuevacuees back in their natal settina that the evaculee under sanaction could n~ate, at least for a certain period of expand to admllit the new netwvork of 406

social ties? These are intriguing questions for any social scientist.

Having discussed the host system and the guests, I shall now discuss the relations between the two. I have already referred earlier to the evolution of infra-structures which deviated from the formally defined norms. It is important to bear in mind that the Bongaon region has accommodated and integrated a large number of refugees since the time of partition. A fair nunmber of such refugee families are completely rehabilitated and reasonably wvell-settled.Thus such persons who once were guests now found themselves in the position of hosts, hosting people from the very country they had fled. The region was also one of the politically violenit areas, where the institutions of law and order had either become overpoliticised or overwhelmed by political organisations, enough to make them almost ineffective. When the evacuees started pouring in from the first week of April, the response of the Bongaon community was one of universal sympathy. They organised their reception, arranged for their food, provided for their shelter and so on. But with the overwhelming magnitude of the influx, the government's intervention became imperative. Thereafter, a process was started which attempted to formalise and routinise the settlement of evacuees. Not until around October could the camp administration really come to grips with this colossal problem. Meanwhile a number of voluntary organisations, including the Ramakrishna Mission, Ananda Marg, Milani Sangha, etc, performed the role of distribution of rations and other relief materials. When the government took over the distribution of rations, the volunteers recruited for this specific purpose appear to have been mostly, if not wholly, from Bongaon and adjoining regions of the 24-Parganas district. Experiences in both the camps reveal a uniform pattern of exploitation by such volunteers. The experience of receiving rations short of their quota was universally felt. The confiscation of cards on flimsy pretexts (and also sometimes for genuine reasons) for periods ranging lupto several weeks was not an infrequent occurrence, whilst a milder punishment resulted in a reduction of the ration quota for a specified period of time. Displays of violence and threats of greater violence at times kept the camp inmates in a state akin to terror. Several incidents of violent behaviour were

reported, including one in which some camp inmates were so brutally beaten that one of them bad to be hospitalised. The alleged crime was their inability to tell the volunteers of the whereabouts of one of their neighbours who was absent from the camp. On one occasio)n a camp inmate was stabbed and injured. Included in the armoury of some of these violent young men were nmore sophisticated weapons than daggers, viz, bombs and guns. These men were characterised by the camp inmates as ugrapanthis or extremists. There was practically nothing the evacuees could do about controlling such behaviour as the Camp Commandants and their assistants, all ex-Army, preferred to steer clear of violenit young men, a species about whom training in military warfare had taught precious little. The prevailing political climate and the asymmetrical relationship in which the guests formally and actually stood vis-a-vis the hosts, and the situation of unemployed youth in West Bengal, facilitated the exploitation of the guests. However, if such a deviant structure characterised the relationship between the camp administration and the guests, this was balanced by compensatory mechanisms of other forms of deviant relationship. Thus the guests \vere drawn into economic activity because their goods and services were welcomed by various groupings in the society. Thus their services were purchased at a level lower than the market price for agricultural labour. It is true, that this did create some tension b)etween the guests and the host labourers. But the host landlords gave the evacuee labourers security or obtained their services clandestinely. The wage rate dropped down to two rupees per day for the evacuees from five rupees. Since this was in effect 'stealing' others' labour, the low wage rate wvasacceptable. Besides, this was a gain in addition to the social security guaranteed by the host system. The other major economic activity was fishing and marketing fish. In this sphere of activity the permissiveness was more pronounced as the entire native population stood to gain by it, including the native fishermen. The skill of the Bangladesh fishermen and peasants is infinitely superior to that of their West Bengal counterparts. The variety of fishing equipment in the possession of the guests was far more efficient than those of the natives, including such implements as achchra kacla, jail, dudci, etc. Nearly 500-600 persons, men, women and children, wesat fishing. They caught. all varieties.

and especially small fish, and sold them reasonably cheap at five or six rupees per kilogram. The local fishermen extracted a certain tax on each fishing implement. The native population welcomed this as it had never had such abundance of fish, and in so mainy varieties, in the market. The interest of the local small traders in (the camp was also evident. The traders or their agents would come to buy pulses and exchange better quality rice for broken Russian rice which the evacuees usually found unpalatable. Also, the foodgrains which found their way into the market from distribution centres brought down the prices of foodgrains in the Bongaon and Chandpara markets. In addition to these major economic activities, the different occupational evacuee sub-groups engaged in limited ecunomic activities like weaving fishing nets and selling them. In the words of an articulate camp matabbar, "Everyone manages to find some means of eaming a little bit". These activities of the guests had started taking place on a scale whose impact on the economy and the labour market was becoming potentially explosive. It is clear that continual adherence to the legal norms set to guide the behaviour pattern of so large a population as 10 million was becoming well-nigh impossible with the passage of time. A dlec:sion favouring their rehabilitation a,-d absorption or their return to Banglacdeshwas becoming imperativa.

1 Although India and Pakistan have the unenviable record of experiencing the largest transfers of populatica with the partition of the subcontinent, sociological literature on the refugee influx into India, covering the period soon after the influx, is scarce to the point of beiing nonexistent. Among the literature available is: V K R V Rao, "An Economic Review of Refugee Rehabilitation in India", Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, 1955; R N Saxena, "Refugees", Asia Publishing House, 1961; S K Dey, "Nilokheri", Asia Publishing House, 1962; Jacques Vernant, "The Refugee in the Post-War World", George Allen and Unwin, London, 1953; Joseph B Schechtman, "The Refugee in the World", A S Barner and Company, New York, 1963. 2 "Tbe refugee problem is essentially an international problem. It can only be resolved by international action. It is by attempting to harmonise the -sometimes conflicting interests of the countries of first asylum and those of permanent resettlement by acting if not as referee, at least as counsellor of those 407

states and to the refugees themnselves, by prompting in every possible way the gradual assimilation of the unemployed, and especially of the least adaptable, refugees and their integration in the more prosperous countries on whom nature has the process smiled, by smoothing which normally ends in naturalisation - it is in these ways that the set up for international authority this puirpose can best discharge its task" in Jacques Vernant, op cit, p 22. "The Indo-Pakistan refugee problem was different in that the two countries took up the responsibility of rehabilitationi of the displaced persons in their respective countries. It was not conceived as an international responsibility", ibid, p 737. "Refugees from East Bengal should under Foreignbe got registered ers' Act, 1946, according to the instructions of the Ministry of Home Affairs to all State Governments and they are required to obtain residence permit for stay at the place where registered for a of three months. After period registration, if any refugee desires to leave the present place of residence unauthorisedly he should be handed over to the police for violation of the provision of the Foreigners' Act. It should be explained to the refugees that their attempt to pressurise Government to obtain additional relief assistance would be fruitless and if they intend to desert, they will have to face seriotis consequences" in Government of India, Ministry of Labour and Rehabilitation, Branch Secretariat,

the cost of refugee relief in 1971 amounted to $ 320 mn. This represents exclusively the work undertaken by the authorities at the reception points and in camps and does not include the aid given by the Indian Red Cross and( the Indian Voluntary Agencies nor the assistance provided by the population to the 3 million refugees who were living with friends and relatives. "Focal Point, on 24th January had received donations in cash and kind amounting to $ 187 million. There have been cancellation of donatio m of about $ 2 million ..." UN Focal Point in Iindia, The Concluding Phase of Focal Pt, New Delhi, February 11, 1972. 6 Quoted in Peter Collins, "A Mandate to Protect and Assist Refugees", United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, 1971. 7 This is adequately represented in the following excerpt: "The efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in his capacity as focal point 'to relieve the suffering of the refugees in India', as requested by the General Assembly in its resolution 2790 (XXVI), have continued without let-up since the cessation of hostilities in the subcontinent on 17th December 1971. At the same time, and to an increasing degree, the activities of the

High Commissioner have been redirected to assisting in the refugees' 'return in safety and dignity to their homes', as called for by the Security Council in its resolution 307 (1971)" from Report of the Svcretary General Concerning the Implementationt of General Assemb2790 (XXVI), and ly Resolution Security Council Revolutioni. 307 (1971), Twenty-Seventh Session of General Assembly, February 15, 1972. 8 Morris Zelditch Jr, "Role Differentiation in the Nuclear Family: A Comparative Study" in T Parsons and Bales (ed), "Family, Socialisation and Interaction Process", Free Press of Glencoe, Illinois, 1955, pp 309-310. 9 Thus naturally falling in line with the internationally defined humanitarian norm stated in the following words: "In view of the humanitarian factors involved, the High Commissioner has always attached special importance to this question and he has continued his efforts to promote the unity of the family, which the Confehoce of Plenipotentiaries considered as "an essential right of the refugees". Report of the United Nations High Commnissner for Refugees, General Assembly, Official Records, Twenty-Sixth Session, Supplement Number 12 United (A/8412), Nations, New York, 1971.

AdministrativeInstructions for Transit Relief Camps for Refugees from

East Bengal, Calcutta, 1971, p 8. "Refugees will not be given any employment in India as, apart from being foreign nationals, such employment will lead to social and economic tensions within this country", ibid, p 12. Ibid, p 12. "The per capita recurring expenditure is Rs 1.75 per day. The nonrecurring expenditure on per capita basis averaged out over 6 months comes to Rs 1.02 per day. Thus the total expenditure (recurring and non-recurring) comes to Rs 2.77 per refugee per day. Using these scales of expenditure, the total expenditure on 6.7 mn refugees in Camps works out to Rs 1.85 crores daily" in Government of India, Ministry of Labour and Rehabilitation, Branch



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Bengal into India, Calcutta, 1971, p 19. It may be noted that the above expenditure is exclusive of that incurred on the three million refugees living with friends and relatives. The volume of expenditure on refugees can also be visualised from the following statement: "According to an Aide-Memoire addressed by the Go>vernmnentof -India on 20th January to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refiugees, 408



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