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Refugees: Remembered and Redefined

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CAMPUS: In keeping with St Joseph’s College tradition of solidarity with oppressed peoples over the years, a discussion held to commemorate World Refugee Day at Loyola Hall on Monday aimed at sensitising the social science community about the global crisis pertaining to refugees.

The discussion was held with Prof. D. Jeevan Kumar, Department of Political Science, Bangalore University, on the topic, “Reconceptualising Refugee Rights: Appropriating Myriad Avatars”.



Dorjee Dhondup and Mohammad Belal, students of I MA Political Science, volunteered to share their experiences of the Tibetan and Afghan refugee crisis, respectively.

Prof. Jeevan Kumar began by giving an overview of The 1951 Refugee ConventionThe 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the definition of a refugee in both the documents. He spoke of how the definition of a refugee has Cold War origins in the aforementioned Convention with a Eurocentric focus.

He felt there was a need to look at the refugee crisis with a post-colonial lens as the present-day protocols still carry the baggage of imperialism. Thereafter, he contributed seven key propositions to reconceptualise Refugee Rights.

Throwing light on the predicament of a refugee, Prof. Jeevan Kumar said, “Many countries see them as adding fuel to insurgency and terrorism. Attitudes and institutions that privilege ‘high politics’ above human rights is embedded in world politics.”

He urged that the normative and ethical framework for analysing the refugee debate must be examined. “Many of the ‘given’ constructions of high politics, such as State Sovereignity, International Security, Citizenship, Identity, and International Law may require a fundamental reappraisal,” he said.

He suggested that the students publish a paper on redefining a refugee, stimulate a debate on the matter and, present a report to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), given the realities of the 21st Century.

Speaking of the issue, Dr Priyanca Mathur, Department of Political Science commented, “We all need to be aware of these issues. International Relations is going for a toss due to forced migration and refugees, particularly because of the Syrian Crisis, Islamic Fundamentalism and the proponents of ISIS.”

Meghdeepa Biswas, I M.A. Political Science, commented, “The refugees are neglected. It is important that they get their own rights and privileges.”

Speaking on India’s response to refugees, David Sebastian, II M.Sc. Physics, said, “India has given a platform for refugees from Tibet, China and Bangladesh who have been exiled. India’s culture has made us a tolerant nation to provide shelter to those deprived of the basic human rights to culture, education and religion.”

“Forced Migration and Refugees: A Human Rights Perspective” is an open-elective offered by the Department of Political Science in the new academic year.



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