Stateless in South Asia

The Chakmas between Bangladesh and India

by Dr. Deepak Singh

Dr. Deepak Singh

New India Foundation



THE Chakmas are amongst the first victims of development-induced displacement in modern South Asia. The completion of Kaptai Reservoir in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs), now a part of Bangladesh, in early 1961 had turned some 100,000 people into environmental refugees.

- The Tribune

This comprehensive study explores issues pertaining to the 'stateless' status of the ethnic Buddhist Chakma refugees in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, who originally belonged to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs).

- Rediff


What does it mean to be ‘stateless’ in the modern postcolonial context? Stateless in South Asia: The Chakmas between Bangladesh and India addresses this complex question through the case of the Chakma refugees in Arunachal Pradesh. The largely neglected social history of the ethnic Buddhist Chakmas, whose homeland is the Chittagong Hill Tracts (in the present Bangladesh), carries the multiple imprints of partition, the dominant development paradigm and religious persecution. As refugees in the strategically sensitive and disputed territory of Arunachal Pradesh in India’s Northeast, they are locked in an intractable conflict over land and resources with the indigenous Arunachalis, themselves marginalized and alienated from the rest of the country.
Setting a new dimension in refugee studies, the arguments in this book are developed on the framework of oral narratives, incorporating the self perceptions of the both the Chakmas as well as the Arunachalis who host them. The book critically analyses national and international official documents and policy statements and demonstrates the absence of legal-institutional and legislative structures to address the concerns of refugees. It throws into relief the sharp contestations over nationalism, citizenship and ethnicity in South Asia, both at the level of political movements and academic discourse. It sheds new light on the outcomes of partition, boundary making and state formation, as well as dominant development models by examining the everyday experiences of these communities.

Author Profile

Dr. Deepak Singh

Deepak K. Singh is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh. His research interests include migration and refugee studies, politics and ethnicity in Northeast India, and postcolonial politics in South Asia. He has contributed several research papers in reputed journals and edited volumes.