The Great Migration of 1971: III: ReturnAuthor(s): Partha N. MukherjiReviewed work(s):Source:
Economic and Political Weekly,
Vol. 9, No. 11 (Mar. 16, 1974), pp. 449-451Published by:
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The
Great
Migration
of
1971
III-Return
ParthaNMukherji
This is anexploratorytudy oftheevacuees wholeftEastBengalaftertheimposition ofmartiallaw on March25,1971,andsought refugein India.Accordingtoofficialstatistics, bythe secondweekofDecember 1971 about6.8million evacueeshadbeen housed incampsand another3.1millionwerestayingwithfriendsandrelatives.Asmanyas 827 statecampsand19 Centralcampsaccommodatedoneof the largestmigrantmovementsinhistory.This three-partstudyconcentratesonthosewho weretemporarily settledatthe ChandparaandBokchora campsinthedistrict of 24-ParganasnWestBengal.PartIlllooks at themigrationofthe eva-cueesbacktoBangladeshandthe manner nwhich itwasachieved.It alsodiscussessometheoreticalformulationsregardingtherefugees.PartIIhadexaminedtheorganisationalset-upof thecamps, therelationsbetweenhostsand guestsinandaroundthecamps and theadoptivecapacities of theevacuees
intheir newenvironment.PartIhaddealtwith the
socio-ecotnomicbackgrotund
oftheevacuees, the
eventsleadingtotheir uprootmentand thetrek tosanctuary.
WEhave observedthecircumstancesunider whiclhtheexodustookplacefromtw-o
regions
of EastBengal.WVehavealso examined the pattern of resettle-mentand socialinteractionin India be-
t\ween
thehostsystemnandtheguests.Itisof considerable interesttostuidy,even thoughbriefly,thereturn oftheevacueestoanindependentBangladeshafterthe victoryof theIndo-Bangla-desharmedforces.Almost immediately afterthecessa-tion ofhostilities thereNwasmuchmo-vement backand forth acrossthebor-der. Withinaperiodof less than twoweeks several small groupsfromeachofthetwocampshadgoneintoBan-gladesh,madeaquick survey oftheconditionsin theirregionsandreport-edbacktothecamps.Theirreportsweresurprisinglyuniform.ThesegroupswereaccordedaredcarpetwelcomebytheirBengaliMuslimneighbours,-whoshowed considerablesympathyforthemandeagerly enquired abouttheirconditions acrosstheborder.Theneigh-boursassuredthem thatthepropertyof the evacuieeswas safe, thatis,theirlandedproperty.These'explorer'grouLps also found evidence of theMuktiBahini taking strongretaliatorymeasuresagainst betrayersof theBangladesh nationalistmovement. ManyRazakars and influentialmembers ofPeaceCommittees werereported tohavebeenkilled; the MuktiBahini waspoisedtoclispense rough andreadyjustice.Withastonishing rapiditythe eva-cuee also came to know aboutthe ex-tentofdamage to his houseand pro-perty, the chances of recoveryof hislooted goods and many other minutedetails of information in whichhe wasinterested. All these werefurther fa-cilitatedljyfrequent visits ofthe Ben-gali Muslim neighboursfromacrosstheborderwhowereequallycurioustosee'how their Hindu neighbourshadfaredduringthenine monthperiod.The increased interactions acrosstheborder coupled with the gloryofthevictoriousoperationsbyIndianarmyand the MuktiBahinigeneratedanun-mistakable urgefortheevacuees tore-turnto their native country.Theemer-genceofBangladeshviewedas com-pletely free ;fmomtheoppresslionsofPakistan presentedasolutiontotheirproblems.Incomparisonto thepros-pectsof a free lifeina newly indepen-(lent country, camp life appeared tobelikea bondagexvhichhadsuddenlybecomeintolerable.Theimpatiencewith which theyawaitedreleasefromthe campswasnotable.Anotherfactorwhichmadethemfeelrestless togowasthe approaching(leadline forthenext sowingofpaddywhichhadtobedone preferably by January15.It is truethat theywerealso con-cerned abouttheuncertainties of shel-ter and food in their own land. Butthe urge to return was unmistakablystronger and the assurances made bythe Indian and Bangladesh governmentsto provide all that they could to re-settle themhadtheexpected impact.Itwasutterlyfascinatingto see in-numerable truck- and train-loads of eva-cuees returning homewvithjoyousshouts of "Joi Bangla" (Victory toBangladesh). I had the privilege oftravelling with a group on a truck toJessorefrom where Iwventto a villageonthe outskirts of ChchianobboiGramand stayed for nearly a week.The reception in Jessore district hadacquired a procedural system. Collegeteachers and students in the townsandschool teachers and volunteers in
thevillageswerereceivingevacueesattheircentresandcanalisingthem totheirrespectivedestinations.Usuallyatsuchcentrestherewas provisionforrationsandfor anovernighthalt forthose intransit.Theentire civilad-m-iinistrationeemed tobe alivetotheneedforsolvingthisalmostunmanage-ableproblem.Allavailable busesandtruckswereceaselesslyengagedintransportationof theevacuees.ButtheinitialenthusiasmwithwvhichheevacueesleftIndiaand withwhichtheyreachedtheirhomesdidnotrequliremuchtimeto beeroded.Faced withtherealityofdestroyed andvacanthomes,thereturnee wasimme-diatelyfaced withasituationwhoseimplicationshehadnotbeenabletocalculatefaraway fromnhome.Thedestructionofhousescouldbroadly beclassifiedintothreecategories:housesw-ithrooftopsandwallsbutpracticallynothingelse,houseswithcompletelyburntoutrootswithjustthe wallsstanding,andcompletelyguttedhou-ses. Ofthethreecategories,these-condpredominatedinthevillagesIsaw.Some ofthereturneesIcouldseehadmanagedtoputaroofofsortsoverone oftheirroomsand sostartanewlifeintheirownhomes.Thepatternofrecovery ofgoods isextremelyinteresting. itwascertainlvnotuniforminallregions.Ishallthereforeconfinemyselftothevillagew-here Istayedand towhat Isawdu-ringa20-miletrip onabicycle.Theprocess ofrecoverywasinitiatedbyappealsfromtheMuktiBahini com-miiandtationedinthevillageandafewdynamicMuslimneaders.The si-tuLationwasextremelyembarrassing andparadoxical.Forthe'custodians'ofsuchgoodstoopenlyreturnthem totheirrightfulownerswas toacknow-449
 
March 16, 1974ECONOMIC AND POLITICALWEEKLYledgehavingplayedahighlydeviantrole.At thesametimetheircollectiveroleinthismatterwasnosecrettoanybody.Thispresentedaproblemeven forthosewhohadhadnointen-tionof enjoyingtheir destituteneigh-bours'goods.Facedwiththiskindof predica-mentsomerespondedtothe appealanddepositedthegoodswiththe MuktiBahinicommand.A few returnedthemdirectlytotheownerstryingtheirbestto explainaway or just keepquietastowhy theyhadtakenthem.Therewereotherswhoshowedreluctancetorespondto theappeal.However,thereturneeswereableto identifyand getinformationaboutthewhereaboutsoftheir goodswithremarkablespeedandaccuracy.Thiswas only possiblebe-causeof theco-operationof theirMus-limsneighbourswhowere tryingtomakeamendsfortheir conduct.Pur-suingsuchinformationthereturneewouldsendamessage, generallyindi-rectly,tothecustodianofhisgoodsandrequesthim to returnit.Ifthecustodianfailedtorespond,acom-plaintwouldbelodgedwiththe MuktiBahinicommand,whichwouldexpedi-tiouslyinvestigateandrecoverthegoods.In a neighbouringvillage,theMuktiBahinihad demarcatedanareawherethe custodiansofothers'goodswerere-questedtodumpthemand thereturneeswererequestedtoidentifytheir proper-tyandtakeithome.Thiswas sup-posedtoavoida lotofembarrassmentfor boththecustodiansandthere-turnees,.Thisdemarcatedareawaslitteredwithallkinds of thingsbeds,almirahs,doorsandwindows,woodenbeams,etc.This proceduremetwithreasonablesuccessastheex-tentof recoverywas placedroughlyat30percentwhichwasconsidered goodwithinthattime span.Inothervillages,cartloadsofgoodsbeingtakenfrom a custodian'shousetoa returnee'shousewerenotanin-frequentsight.However,thispatternwas notfollowedinsomevillagesinthe predominantlyHindupopulatedareas.TheHindushavingreturnedtotheir srcinalstrongholdswereforce-fullydemandingbacktheirgoodsfromtheir Muslimneighbours.Inatleastonevillageanold Muslimwasliterallyintearsdescribinghow inspiteof hisbesteffortsin helpingrecoverthe loot-edgoodshe wasbeinginsultedandabused.Hecomplainedthat oneofthe returneeshad pluckeedhis beardandonanother occasionhischildwas slap-pedandtoldthathis fatherwasalowN-downooter.ThisoldMuslimfrankly expressedfear thathis lifewasnot safe and he was thinking of mov-ingtosomeotherplace.In thiscontextit hastobenotedthattheMuktiBahiniwas notoperat-inginthisareaandtherewasnoef-fectivealternativemechanismn ortheresolutionofsuchproblems.Thisin-dicatesthat the MuktiBabini,in theabsenceofanyof theinstitutionsoflawandorder,served as avery impor-tantagency ofsocial control.And sotheMukti Bahini'sabsencefromanarea generated tensions.In a sensethe Mukti Bahini, symbo-lised asliberatorsofthecountry,wasplaying a role which even normal in-stitutionsofsocialcontrolNerepre-sumablynotina position toplay.Clear evidence ofthiscouldbe seensoon after the Prime Minister of Ban-gladesh appealed totheMukti Bahinito laydownarms voluntarily andde-clared that those whodidnotheed theappealwouldbe identified or labelledas Al
Badrs
(the infamousmaskedgroup which engagedinthe massslaughterof intellectuals onthe eve oftheliberation of Bangladesh). Therole of the Mukti Bahini then imme-diately received a check and the vo-luntary return of goods from custo-diansregisteredasharpdecline. Thisshows thestatusandpower theMuktiBahinienjoyedinthe village cornmuni-tywhere Isawitoperate.
TOWARDSATHEORETICALINTEGRATION
Thisexploratory study raises cer-taintheoretical problems. One mightposethemainquestion very general-ly:Whatisthesocialresponse tocri-ses?Certainly,therearelikelytobevarieties of responses justasone canidentifyavarietyof crises.The socialresponse to crises emanating from na-turalcauses is likely tobevastly diffe- rent from crises emanating from socialandpolitical causes.Thusacommu-nity may face challenges from earth-quakes, floods,tidal wavesor tornadoes-crisiswhichhavebeenlbetterlabel-ledasdisasters. It can also face a cri-sis ofanextremely different nature-wherethecrisisis notoverwiththedisaster, but in fact is a continuing one.Intheformer type of crisis, thecom-unimity mobilisesitsresources to makeupfor the losses. Ifthecommunity isin an earthquake zone or tornado-prone area, it develops certain mechan-ismsbywhichit can face the recurrence of suchcrises and their aftermath. Thelattertypeofcrises, in which completeuprootment of a very large groupfrom
its soil to an alien country is the mostextremeform, isdistinctive inthatthe causal generating factor being socio-politicalis much morecomplexand forthe uprooted people there is no fami-liarprecedent to fallbackupon.Uprootedfromnhis nativesoil,tornfrom his national identity, theeva-cuee is forced toacceptanunstable,uincertain future for himselfand hisfamily.Theexperiencesofpost-warrefugees haveshownthatneurosis isa conimon conditionamiionghemand"quite apartfromsymptomsofa de-finitely pathologicalcharacter, thereisevery justification forspeakingofa'refugee complex'."'0It would beex-pected that anidlegroup,forcedintoapathy, would manifest serioussyirlm-
tonms
of personaldisorganisation.Butthis was not so among the refugees Iwaswith. As indicated earlier, neitherthe doctor visiting the two camps
nor
the camp inmatesreported a singlecase ofhysteria orany abnormal be-haviour. There were many persons re-porting how shattered their nerves wereonaccount oftheirshocking experi-ences in East Pakistan,butthey di(dnot show any signs of neurosis. What,therefore, explains thesocialandpsy-chological stabilityof this groupinsuch circumstances?One may infer that either the causesofsuchtension were successfully re-solvedor thatatension-managementmechanism hadcomeinto operationwhich,inspiteofthecontinuingtenseobjective situation,neverthelesshelpedto retain the balance of the individual.Itisclear thatbydenyingthethernEast Pakistannationals Indian co-na-tionality and by imposing Onthemaforcedidleness, thesituationtheeva-cueeswere placedinwrasconducivetoproblemsofpersonaldisorganisationi.In thiscontext,threeprocessescanbeidentifiedwhichperformedhe allimpor-tantfunctionoftension-management.They are: (a)thereactivationoftheevacuees'ruralcommunitystructures;(b)theemergenceofthe campcom-munityon a modelclosetothatofthevillage; (c)deviant behaviour whichacted asa safetyvalve. The first twoprocesses (especially the first) enabledtheindividualto retainor regainhisidentity in theinstitutionalised systemofstatus androleinwhichhehadope-rated. If theevacuee had lost hisstatusvi.s-a-vis thesocial environmentaround him, he stillretained his socialpositioninthesystemof social inter-actionandsocialsolidarity. The indi-vidualevacuee wasnot suffering in iso-lation torn out of his group. Theen-
450
 
ECONOMICAND POLITICALWEEKLYMarch16,1974
tirecollectivitywassharingacrisisthe challengewas not facedonlybytheindividualbutbytheentiregroup.HereonemightrefertotheDur-kheimnianhypothesiswhichpositsthatanincreaseintheintegrationofagroup'whichfacesacrisiscausesareduc-tion intherate ofegotistic suicides.Durkheim statesthat"greatsocialdis-
tLrbances
andpopular warsrousecol-lectivesentiments,stimulatepartisanspiritandpatriotism,politicalandna-tionalfaith,alike, andconcentratingactivitytoward asingleend,atleasttemporarilycauseastrongerintegra-tionofsociety".11Thisprompts himtopostulatethat"Suicidevariesinver-selywiththedegreeofintegrationofpoliticalsociety."'2Withapermis-sibleextensionofthishypothesisonecanseeintheinstanceoftheBangla-deshevacueesthereactivatedmechani-calsolidarityfunctioningasatension-managementmechanismandminimisingtheoccurrenceofneurosisandpersonalclisorganisation.Thetheoreticalirnplicationsofthesafety-valvemechanismofthedevi-antinfrastructuresarefarfromsuper-ficial.Whilethesocialsystemofthecommunitywastransferredacrosstheborderand newcampcommunitiesemerged, itfounditselfoperatingorexistinginaneconomicvacuum.Thisraisesthefollowingproblem:Whathappenstoasocial systemwhichhasasocialstructurebut whichsuddenlyisfaced with the lossofitseconomicsubsystem?Therecouldbe threepos-sibleresults;(1)the socialsystemmaydissolve itselfintoanothersocio-cultu-ralsystemandgetintegratedwith theeconomicsystem ofthelatter; (2) thesocialsystemwillgenerateanewitsowneconomicsubsvstem;(.3)the socialsystemwillfaceseriousproblems ofdisorganisationandperish,ifitisnot in apositionforpossibilities(1)and/or(2).In thepresentcontext,possibility(1)couldhaveresultedfromgrantingco-nationality andrehabilitatingtheeva-cuee.This theevacuee waslegallyde-nied.Possibility (2)wasalsolegallydenied.Thethirdpossibilitywastheonewhichtheevacuee wasforced toaccept, withthedifferencethatthephysicalsurvivalandsecurityoftheevacueewasensured. Insucha situa-tion, theinstitutionalisedandemergingsocialstructuresgeneratedtheirowndevianteconomicinfrastructurestocompensate forthelosteconomic sub-system.Thisstudy,therefore,providesanimportantinsightintotheunderstand-ingoftheprimacy oftheeconomicsulbsystemfor thesurvival ofasocialsystem and its individualmembers.The superstructureswere'compelled'togenerate a baseofeconomicactivity,without which thesocialsystemwasthreatened withpossibledisaster.Asforthespeedydepartureoftheevacueesfromthecamps,there wereimportant'pull' and'push'factorswhichexpedited it.Once thesrcinalcausalgeneratingfactoridentifiedwiththecrisiswassatisfactorilyremoved,thesocialsystems withtheirfragmentedecologicalbasestrovetoregain theirecologicalunity.Theguests'unequalrelationship wviththeirhosts
-
withaverticalone-way movementofobliga-tionsdefining alowstatusfortheevacuees in thestratificationscheme
-
wvas aklind ofanl 'oppression'charac-terisedbyseveredeprivation,restric-tionsandhumiliations.TheliberationofBangladeshprovided anopportunityto'liberate'oneselffromthis low-statuspositionand toregainone's statusin one'sowntotalsocialsetting.
Notes
10JacquesVernant, "TheRefugeein thePost-WarWorld",GeorgeAllenandUnwin,London,1953.11EmileDurkheim,"Suicide"(trans-latedbyJASpaulding andGeorgeSwipson), Routledge andKeganPaul,London, 1953,p 208.12Ibid,p208.
FROMTHECHAIR
Aibright,
Morarji
and
Pandit
Limited
SpeechoftheChairman,ShriNDandeker,ICS(Retd)
THEfollowingis theSpeechdeliveredby ShriNDandeker,ICS(Retd),Chairman,Albright,MorarjiandPanditLimited, attheEighthAnnualGeneralMeetingoftheMembersheldon Wed-nesday,March6,1974:
LADIESANDGENTLEMEN,
Ihavegreatpleasure inwelcomingyoutothisEIGHTHANNUAL GENE-RALMEETING.TheAuditedStatementsofAccountfortheyearended 31stOctober,1973,and theDirectors'Reportthereonhavebeenwithyouforsometimenow.Withyourpermission,Ishalltakethemasread.Theresultsoftheyear'soperationshavebeenverydisappointingindeed,comparedwiththoseofthepreviousyear.Thereweretwoprincipalreasonsforthis.Firstly,there weresharpincreasesin
allcosts.RockPhosphatewhichis themajor rawmaterialfortheCompany'sproductionisimportedfromMorocco;andbecauseoftheverytightfreightmarketandthecongestionintheBom-bayDocks,thefreightonshipmentshasbeensky-rocketing.Theotherimportantrawmaterial,namelySodaAsh,beinggreatlyinshortsupplytheCompanyhadtoimportsomeofitsrequirementatapriceverymuchhigherthanthatofindigenousSodaAsh.Therehasalsobeencontinuingincreaseinthecostofpower,furnaceoil,keroseneoilandengineeringstores.Inaddition, someadhocbenefits badtobegrantedtotheCompany's em-ployees.Intheresult.thecostofgoodsproducedby theCompanyasreflectedintheAccounts isdispropor-tionatelyhigherthanthecorresponcl-ingcostinthepreviousyear.Never-theless,yourBoard quiterightly
thoughtitproperthattheCompanyshouldforsometimeendeavourtoabsorbthese costincreasesinsteadofpassingthemontoourcustomers.Secondly,even whiletheCompanywasthusmakingeveryefforttoholdthe pricelinewhilemaximising produc-tionto meettheever-increasingdemandsfromthemanufacturers ofnon-soapydetergentsandalso otherusersofSodiumTripolyphosphate, theworkersstruckworkforeightdaysinAprilandindulged inaprolonged"sit-in"strikefrom12thOctober,raising cer-tainwhollyillegalanduntenabledemands.Thisstrikecontinuedintothecurrentaccounting yearuntil, final-ly, themanagementwasreluctantlycompelledto declareapartialclosureofthecompany's plantfrom 3rdDecem-I)er1973.Work atthefactorywasfinallyresumedonlyon30thDecember
1973.451
of 4