List of abstracts

Title: Bandh: A Lame Ineffective Movement

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Title: Bandh: A Lame Ineffective Movement

Abstract: Lately the entire nation came to a symbolic standstill when the opposition parties called for a day’s bandh. At least it conduced to disenchantment on rising prices of food and grains, although the protest was focussed more on the rise in fuel prices. Bandh, according to a Supreme Court verdict in 1998 is illegal and unconstitutional. This fact was re-emphasized in 2007 wherein the Supreme Court clearly stated that bandhs are illegal but strikes are not. There however lingers an ambiguity over the difference between bandhs and strikes. One discernible difference between the two is that in a strike there is something at stake for both the sides. For employees it is their livelihood and for the employer it is their means of production, also affecting those who use the services. Bandh is more of an ‘enforced idleness’ that seeks no public opinion, volunteers and choice. It in turn deprived wages of the people whose issues it expected to address. It was more of a hyped situation created by the opposition in order to attract publicity.

The event may have occurred lately but it did not create much of an impact. Like all other social issues such as farmer suicides, land grabs it has faded from minds, but the seriousness of rising food prices still remains. With years the attention span of public has been reducing and a mass movement needs to convey its effect within a short period of time. Most of those who argued about the lameness of bandh were countered back by arguments that there is no other way to address the issue. However I feel that a movement might be successful if it is led by those affected and adversely damages those who need to realise the severity of the situation. Such a movement that may achieve in instead of a bandh is a better solution. It may end up affecting the middle class and the upper class, the businesses and hence would compel government to take the problem. After all, the primary sector lies majorly with the poor.

2.4 Title: The Nation-State in Law

Chair: tbc

Panelist: Darryl Li, Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology & Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

Title: A Hyderabadi Yemeni in President Alija Izetbegović’s Court: Other Universalisms and the Nation-State Juridical Order of Things in Bosnia-Herzegovina 

Abstract: Around the world, various sites of armed conflict involving Muslim populations – from the Philippines to Kashmir to Somalia – have witnessed the arrival of foreign, and often Arab, volunteers seeking to wage “jihad.”  Notwithstanding their simplistic labelling as “terrorists,” these armed transnational non-state groups engender a rich variety of cross-cultural interactions, fighting alongside, proselytizing among, and intermarrying with local populations as part of a project that is universalist in scope and Islamic in idiom. 

This paper explores the challenges to regnant forms of legality in the global nation-state order posed by transnational jihads, with a focus on the mujahidin battalion that fought in the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  The mujahidin battalion – composed primarily of Arab and Bosnian Muslims – fought under the aegis of the nascent Bosnian nation-state and as part of its army, but also in the name of a global Muslim community with its own autonomous leadership and structures.  These “foreign fighters” also functioned at times in competition, cooperation, and confrontation with other foreigners, namely western peacekeeping forces acting in the name of a different universalist project, liberal in idiom (“the international community”).  In their complex relationships with both the Bosnian state and the “international community,” the mujahidin presented an alternative to the global juridical order and its logic of ultimately grounding political violence in the nation-state or institutions authorized by it. 

This paper also demonstrates that the persistence of this alternative to the nation-state order draws from long-standing circuits of mobility linking different regions of the Muslim world, later reshaped by modern European empires and the nation-state system, including the Non-Aligned Movement.  By tracing the trajectory of a Hyderabad-born mujahid leader of Yemeni origin who left Afghanistan for Bosnia in the 1990s, this paper ties together both the historical conditions of possibility for transnational jihads as well as imperial attempts to police transnational Muslim mobility.

Panelist: Mahendran Thiruvarangan, Assistant Lecturer in English Literature, Department of Linguistics & English, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka 

Title: Home and Homeland: The Politics of Narrating the Exodus of Jaffna 

Abstract: The Jaffna Exodus of October 1995, when around 450, 000 people vacated Jaffna peninsula, though not much explored in academic circles, is a significant event in the political narratives of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict. This paper sets out to examine the manner(s) in which the spatial and discursive configurations of “Tamil home,” “Tamil homeland,” and “Tamil nation” emerge in and through the different narratives about the Exodus by the different forces, namely the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the then Government of Sri Lanka, the displaced and non-displaced people of Jaffna and Tamil literature. While unravelling the fissures within the Tamil nation and its nationalist ideology, as they surface in the narratives, along lines of class, caste, gender and region and through the binaries of self-Other, subject-object and citizen-traitor, I see the people’s movement from one place to another and their act of narrating their tales about the Exodus in conformist and counter-hegemonic ways as an act of both “interpellation” and “resistance” vis-à-vis the nationalist ideologies of the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE. In a rather “unconventional” academic vein which challenges the notion of “narratorial objectivity,” the researcher, who experienced the Exodus at the age of ten, recalls his experience of the Exodus, and thereby positions himself both as a subject of his research along with a band of real and fictional story-tellers, and as a subjective researcher. Recognizing the political significance of the multiple voices that emerge through these narrations, which are manifestations of a potential political agency of the people in their negotiations with the structures of power, the study argues that the narratives offer alternative premises of political expression and activism that would enable the people to intervene in and reconfigure the post-war discourses of the (Sri Lankan) nation and (Sri Lankan) nation-state.  

Panelist: Chunnu Prasad, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Title: Between Two Nations: Arunachal Pradesh and the Politics of Nationality in India’s North East

Abstract: Refugees are an integral part of the international system in ways that we do not usually realize and this is also the case with India. So far the Chakmas of the north-eastern states of India is concerned they are largely a tribal people settled mainly in the states of Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and West Bengal. Chakmas believed to have migrated from the Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) of Bangladesh to the Mizo hills. It is also believed that the Chakmas migrated from the Champa Kingdom in Cambodia and the Lushai’s called Chakmas as Tui-Chek, which means the people who lived near water. Chakmas have close resemblance to Mongolians of the Tibeto-Burman groups. Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh the ‘land of rising sun’ gone further and gained re-names the ‘land of discrimination’. Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh considered ‘man in air’ and even after 45 years of their settlement in Changlang, Lohit and Papumpare districts denied basic needs like food, house, cloth, education, electricity, medical aid etc. for survival. India’s refugee regime is yet to evolve a transparent framework linking rights, laws and policies. It results in great prevarication between policies and practices. Treatment of refugees widely differs in India from state to state and is subject to much pressure from civil society groups.

This paper largely focuses on India’s refugee regime, its re-settlement policies, laws, working of civil society etc. It also emphasises the question of citizenship, particularly to the second and third generation immigrants whose applications are still to be forwarded by the State government to the Central Government to grant of citizenship as per the directions of the Guwahati, Delhi High Court as well as the Supreme Court of India judgements is concerned. The paper also brings some of the highlights on human rights violations in the region since 1964.  

2.5 Title: Social Values, Law and Women’s Rights in Bangladesh 

Panel Coordinator: Amanda Sen

Chair: Rokeya Chowdhury (Dhaka University)

Panel Abstract:

This panel will address the impact of limited social rights on the realization of legal rights for women in Bangladesh. There are constitutional and legislative protections for women against some forms of oppression, but these are often ineffective, as in the case of legislative attempts to restrain child marriage, or under-enforced, as in the case of protections against dowry demands. Societal norms and influential figures often decide the extent to which legislative and judicial standards are implemented locally, and significant barriers prevent women from approaching the courts. Victims are often reluctant to initiate court proceedings for fear of societal stigmatization and exclusion. Beyond societal and familial barriers to accessing justice, many women who pursue criminal cases face judges who continue to utilize un-coded social norms in determining the validity of their testimony.  

This panel posits that legal rights cannot be fully realized without corresponding recognition of social rights. Kazi Ataul-al Osman will discuss the reasons why the government, legal advocates and courts must promote social rights for the realization of legal rights. Amanda Sen will discuss the impact of limited social rights on legal rights in the context of sexual violence against women. Arafat Hosen Khan will discuss the role of the media in both hindering and aiding the realization of legal rights through its social biases. Public interest litigation and campaigns for legislation protecting women from violence and oppression cannot ignore the need to address and influence societal approaches to women’s rights at the local and family levels.

Panelist: Arafat Hosen Khan, Dr. Kamal Hossain & Associates, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Barrister-at-Law, The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn

Title: The Role of the Media in Realizing Women’s Rights in Bangladesh 

Abstract: The media, including newspapers, radio, television and the Internet, plays a very important role in democracy and national development. Access to information is essential to the health of democracy and the eradication of gender bias in society. This is particularly true of Bangladesh, where people are becoming more engaged in representative democracy and conscious of their socio-economic rights. Information serves a “checking function” by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them, without gender bias.  

The media can both hinder and aid the realization of legal rights. At their worst, newspapers and the broadcast media reinforce existing discriminatory messages, sensationalize crimes whose victims would rather remain anonymous and implicate innocent parties. At other times, victims of rape do not press charges until the local media publicizes the incident. Thus, actual or feared exposure by the media can affect personal decisions about accessing justice.  

In spite of its drawbacks, the media can play an effective and positive role in encouraging women to approach the courts for justice. The media can also play a key role in improving women’s socio-economic rights in Bangladesh. This paper will emphasize the implementation of these rights through executive, legislative, and above all, judicial action.

Panelist: Kazi Ataul-Al-Osman, Dr. Kamal Hossain & Associates, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Title: Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and the Enforcement of the Law 

Abstract: This paper will discuss the theoretical aspects of socio-economic rights of individuals and their hierarchical legal inviolability within the state. Legitimacy of law can be preserved only when rights are protected, but full access to legal rights requires social provisions. The notion of equality for the progressive enlargement and enrichment of people’s lives can be fully realized only by emphasizing social and economic rights in addition to civil, political and legal rights.  

Apart from theoretical aspects, this paper will address questions of fact regarding realization of access to justice and constitutional protections. In the South Asian context, gender inequality plays a pivotal role in hindering socio-economic development. This paper examines issues relating to dowry, cruelty, domestic violence, economic discrimination and social injustice towards women and the lack of effective judicial and legislative intervention, especially in case of Bangladesh. There are many laws in place to further socio-economic equality, and South Asian states have a responsibility to enforce effective mechanisms for preventing encroachment on established legal rights.  

In a recent trend, the judiciary in Bangladesh has intervened strategically to uphold rights through various positive measures and directives. Existing laws and constitutional protections can be further entrenched by effective public interest litigation and their apposite adjudication. In spite of the prevalent executive and legislative quandaries in Bangladesh, the judiciary has upheld various socio-economic rights through public interest litigation as an effective modus operandi in the case of gender related issues.

Panelist: Amanda Sen, New York University School of Law, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice Fellow (2010)

Title: Social Values and Justice for Rape Victims in Bangladesh 

Abstract: The social stigma resulting from rape causes many women to not come forward when they have been victims. Paradoxically, it is this very perception of “loss of honour” that makes a victim’s testimony credible to judges, who presume that the risk of losing honour deters “respectable” women from pursuing false rape cases. This paper will address judicial treatment of victim testimony in rape and kidnapping, primarily through analysis of appeals in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. In rape and kidnapping cases where corroborating evidence is weak, Justices make an effort to evaluate the credibility of the victims, which results in women being labelled as trustworthy or untrustworthy. Commonly, the “respectability” of the victim’s family, including her level of education, is a factor in judging whether she is credible. Differentiation of married and unmarried women also occurs, with unmarried women considered more credible in such cases. Accordingly, delays in filing FIRs or in seeking medical examination are considered explicable when young, unmarried, “respectable” girls are involved and suspicious when older married women are involved.  

Most Justices are reluctant to affirm a conviction for rape or kidnapping based on the testimony of a woman without a guarantee that the woman’s otherwise “respectable” social reputation is negatively affected by pursuing the rape case. Given the continuing stigma resulting from rape and its impact on a woman’s social standing, the assumption by judges that a “respectable” woman would not come forward without a valid claim may not seem entirely baseless. However, the factors that are used by the Court to determine credibility, which have gained precedential value, help to perpetuate gender inequity by reinforcing a notion of “virtue” which a woman stands to lose upon being raped. In this way, socially determined values influence women’s ability to access justice through the formal judicial system.

2.6 Title: Law and Colonialism

Chair: Aparna Balachandran

Panelist: Laura Ribeiro, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Title: Contesting Law and Space: the ‘Anarcho-Legal’ Order of Israel's Colonial Regime

Abstract: With the occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967 the Israeli Government created a particular spacio-legal dilemma: expanding its territorial jurisdiction while withholding citizenship from the seized population. Since then, a nebulous but hyper-structured legal regime – made up of a patchwork of Ottoman, British Mandate and Jordanian laws collapsed into an overarching military system – has implemented a host of spatial technologies which helped operationalize the Zionist maxim of acquiring ‘a land without a people’ into reality, effectively legalizing the land without legalizing its people. Differential citizenship and apartheid are common practice in settler-colonial regimes, but this spacio-legal arrangement is particular in that it constitutes perpetual legal ambiguities rather than fixed categories and hierarchies, whose focus is to ‘civilize’ the land and not its people. The rupture between people and land was materialized and managed through zoning laws that confined Palestinian towns and cities within enclaves, severing the familial, social and economic relations between them, and confiscating the rest for use as Israeli military zones, nature reserves and settlements. The Oslo Accords consolidated the existing spatial structures and further reified Israeli spatial logic by fragmenting both space and the incumbent Palestinian sovereignty. Meta-zones of Areas A, B and C where created and placed on a sliding scale based on an inverse relationship between the two categories – the maximum space yielding minimum sovereignty. This space is Area C.


This essay examines the legal and spatial contradictions inherent in the Oslo regime, particularly in Area C, and its wider implications at this present time. In 2009, the Palestinian Prime Minister in the West Bank, Salam Fayyad kick-started a series of diplomatic and institutional efforts – largely through donors and humanitarian agencies – to sustain a de facto Palestinian presence in Area C as a precursor to de jure sovereignty. This collision of various actors not only generates critical questions about space and law, but amplifies the ambiguities at the heart of the institutional-jurisdictional set-up over the occupied territories. Can humanitarian interventions based on International Humanitarian Law and its strictly human dimension of ‘relief’, effectively protect populations dispossessed by spatial mechanisms? Are both legal and illegal forms of contestations in this space equally productive? If so, what are the characteristics of the legal order/disorder producing and, being produced by, these contestations? Could its differentia specifica be a form of ‘anarcho-legal’ order? Moreover, as people are being governed through space, what effect can their ‘spatial struggle’ then have on the laws and practices that govern them?

Panelist: Aqseer Sodhi, Student, National Law School of India University, Bangalore

Title: The Colonial State and the Regulation of Sexuality

Abstract: My paper argues that the policy of the colonial state in India had much to do with the way women's sexuality is perceived today. Through primarily legislative, but also non-legislative means, the sexuality of Indian women as well as British men was regulated for myriad reasons.

In the case of female sexuality, these were: the need to come up with a moral justification for rule in India, the need to keep both social reformers as well as traditionalists happy with British rule, and practical concerns like the need for a large labour force that required women to get married and reproduce early. The sexuality of the British male (especially officers and clerks) was regulated to keep up the semblance of racial and moral superiority and to address anxieties that the moral “degradation”  seen in these young rulers would be the cause of the fall of the Empire.

I look specifically at the legislative regulation of prostitution, the devadasi tradition, widow remarriage and sambandhams where legislation was seen as a way of preserving the “morality” of the concerned women.   I conclude that the colonial state directly and indirectly had much to do with firming notions of the "proper place" of women in Indian society as mothers and wives before sexual beings. Even though Indian society did not allow its women a great deal of autonomy or accord them more importance than property of their husbands before, the attitude towards sexuality was still more pragmatic and liberal than it was to be after colonial rule made its impact.

Panelist: Alecia Simmonds, Visiting Scholar Birkbeck College, Doctoral Candidate, Sydney University

Title: Rousseau’s Empire of Love

Abstract: Throughout his life Jean Jacques Rousseau was convinced of his status as a prodigy – less in philosophy or political science than in sentiment and love. When Rousseau loved he ‘always loved too sincerely, too perfectly. Never were passions at the same time more lively and pure than mine; never was love more tender.’ He was similarly effusive about his own refinement of sentiment. It was, as he wrote, ‘benevolence aided by the passions which maintained an empire over me, which gave law to my heart.’ It is perhaps not surprising then that when Rousseau turned his mind to the politics of Empire, he converted a history of violent conquest into a tale of love, passion and perfidy. 

This paper will explore the relationship between love, law and imperialism through the lens of a little known opera by Rousseau: La Découverte du Nouveau Monde.

I argue that Rousseau was not alone in using love as a means of explicating Empire. In the latter half of the 18th Century many colonial theorists, enlightenment scholars and liberal theorists discursively anchored state and imperial authority in domestic and romantic relations. This was a European trans-imperial trend expressive of an overarching desire to reconcile sentiment, virtue, inclusion and morality with sovereignty, liberty, exclusion and imperial expansion.  

Love was enlisted by States and political theorists to transform militaristic imperial exploits into virtuous enterprises, and to render oppressive and exclusionary social arrangements moral and desirable. Discourses of love proved to be naturally adept when placed in the service of governance. The explicit biblical origins of love, linking humans with God, stamped imperial enterprise with divine approval rendering it ineluctable and natural – a consequence of a simple unfolding of time. Because of its biblical origins the language of love was also a language of sacrifice and surrender. As with the marriage contract, the Americans in Rousseau’s opera are able to consent to their subjugation as colonisation is structured as a romance. Love thus allows for an affective social contract to be formed where liberty can be surrendered, wills may be coerced, but the appearance of consent ensures that no one can be blamed.

Panelist: Prashant Iyengar, Rural Development Institute, Hyderabad
Title:Constructing the Public/Private Divide from the 19th century Legal Archive

Abstract: The separation of lives into public and private domains is one of the bulwarks of modern “normative sexuality”- which in its purest form is domestic, “heterosexual, marital,  monogamous, reproductive and non-commercial”. The other bulwark was a sacral re-imagining, based on the public/private divide of  Indian femininity and “womanhood” that
accompanied the rise of nationalism during the  colonial period. By contrast, the 19th century legal archive brims with stories that defy this norm -women poisoning their husbands to elope with their paramours, men ardently complaining of  their wives’ infidelity, or their refusal to cohabit with them, of polyandrous women,  of dancing girls who demand shares in their respectable lovers’ property, prostitutes  who demand to be taken off registers. In several cases,
the ‘erotic’ claims made by women are grounded in customary practices.Within the stories housed in these 'legal' archives, neither sacred Indian womanhood, nor  for that matter Indian manhood appear particularly stable, and it takes all the pedagogic might of colonial
law and nationalist politics to appropriately feminize women, masculinize men in order for the preferred heterosexual, monogamous patriarchal domestic utopia to obtain.The complex legal and cultural negotiations through which this division was delimited  during the course of the 19th century is the subject of this paper. Custom, colonial  patriarchal ideology,
anti-colonial nationalism and legal interpretation played varying parts in the “cultural process” 8 of lawmaking which resulted in the constitution of the  public-private divide. In this paper, I traverse the legal archive to several moments during  India’s colonial past where heterosexuality, masculinity, femininity and patriarchy were not as rigidly entrenched as they now appear.

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