Development and Urbanization
Mediated by human traffickers, each year, large numbers of poor ‘Rohingya’ Muslims from Myanmar try to migrate to countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and most frequently to Bangladesh. Typical of ‘forced or involuntary migration’, they are completely hapless people fleeing from torture, rape and persecution in Myanmar. They were officially made ‘stateless’ by the Myanmar government by mooting the 1982 Citizenship law whereby their ethnicity was de-recognised and they were labelled as outsiders.
In order to flee from Myanmar, they pay a proportionate sum of money to human trafficking agents just to find their way in the ‘host’ countries, and instead end up being slaves, or, even worse, facing gruesome death.
The paper is a result of the author’s ‘ethnographic involvement’ (mainly in-depth interviews and observations) with the Rohingya refugees as part of an ongoing project (2015 onwards) in Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. It discusses about the precarious lives and transitory livelihood of the Rohingyas in Bangaldesh - inside the registered camps and outside it as ‘illegal refugees’.
The paper engages with issues of ‘forced migration’, ‘stateless-ness’, ‘refugee-hood’ and violence from the viewpoint of various actors speaking and acting from various social loci. In explaining these issues conceptually, Agamben’s notion of ‘bare life’, where ‘life’ is reduced to an entity without legal rights and is exposed to the vagaries and monstrosities of various state and non-state actors, will be useful as a heuristic device to understand this violent political geography of forced migration that connects South and Southeast Asia.