Life on the Edge: Forced Migration and Ethnic Encounter in the Bay of Bengal

  • Debojyoti Das


The chapter with a case of the Rakhines, a migrant ethnic group in South and Southeast Asia, addresses some of the key questions relevant to academic debates on borders, migration, and community identity construction in the littoral Bay of Bengal in the twentieth century. Maritime historian Michael Pearson opines that the history of the Bengal Delta, like other littoral regions, should be studied in light of the broader trade and mercantile as well as migration flows that connected the region with the hinterland covering present-day Northeast India, Burma, and China. They are part of the ‘connected histories’ of the Bay of Bengal littoral rim. The chapter fits this premise in the case of the Rakhines of Bangladesh, an ethnic minority who have been historically forced to migrate due to political, social, and environmental vulnerability in Myanmar and Bangladesh. They migrated from the Arakan valley of present-day Myanmar in the early eighteenth centuries and settled in Chittagong, Khulna, and Borisal division of Bengal via the sea route and Sandwip island. They have maintained their distinct identity as a religious, linguistic, and ethnic group. Sectarian violence, burning of Pagodas, and ethnic conflict with the dominant Bengali community in Bangladesh, however, have forced the Rakhines to migrate back to their homeland in Myanmar and Chittagong Hill Tracts. The chapter answers to the following questions: What does motivate ethnic minorities to migrate in the Indian Ocean littoral region? What are the roles of state practices and policies in the process?


Forced migration Rakhine Bangladesh India Minority Identity 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Debojyoti Das
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of ArtsBristol UniversityBristolUK

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