Involuntary Displacement and Human Security: A Study of the Kaptai Dam in Bangladesh

DOI10.1177/0973598419863234
Published date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019
Article
1 Department of Political Science, Government Degree College, Santirbazar, Tripura, India.
Corresponding author:
Arun Kumar Nayak, Department of Political Science, Government Degree College,
Santirbazar, Tripura 799144, India.
E-mail: nayaktheraun@gmail.com
Involuntary
Displacement and
Human Security:
A Study of the
Kaptai Dam in
Bangladesh
Arun Kumar Nayak1
Abstract
Involuntary displacement caused by development projects has become
a great concern in the present era of the free market economy across
the globe. There has been extensive research on involuntary displace-
ment; however, it was confined to subjects like anthropology, sociology,
and development studies earlier. However, after the 1990s, a very useful
theoretical approach to human security is evolving in analyzing the effects
of involuntary displacement caused by a number of reasons. Studying
the case of the Kaptai Dam of Bangladesh, the study shows that it has
brought a broad range of human insecurities into focus—like economic
insecurity, food insecurity, health insecurity, environmental insecurity,
community insecurity, personal insecurity, and political insecurity. Hence,
the paper has suggested for the application of human security approach
as a useful tool for researchers while studying the global problems of
involuntary displacement.
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
23(2) 199–231, 2019
2019 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
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DOI: 10.1177/0973598419863234
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200 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 23(2)
Keywords
Kaptai dam, Bangladesh human security, displacement, development,
environment
Introduction
Involuntary displacement caused by development projects across the
globe is huge in numbers, increasingly becoming a great concern for
states to provide security to the displaced. The involuntary displacement
caused by such projects involves dams, reservoirs, irrigation, roads,
highway, canals, mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction,
pipelines, agricultural expansion, parks and expansion of reserve forests,
and population redistribution schemes (Internal Displaced Monitoring
Centre 2019).1 A study made by the World Bank reported that, during the
period 1986–1993, displacement found on account of development
projects alone is just about 12.5 million. It is estimated that during the
1990s, the construction of 300 high dams (above 15 m) had displaced
four million people (Internal Displaced Monitoring Centre 2019). There
are a number of studies on the issue of involuntary displacement by
anthropologists, sociologists, and researchers of development studies.
Their studies show that although development projects bring certain
benefits to the society at large, their construction too leads to many
significant social and human impacts, particularly in terms of
displacement leading to a broad range of ‘impoverishment risks’ that
includes landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalization, food
insecurity, increased morbidity, loss of common resources, and social
disarticulation, resulting in a loss of socio-cultural resilience (Cerena
2000: 3659–3678).
The construction of Hirakud dam in the year 1957 in India displaced
about 100,000 people in the state of Orissa (Nayak 2010: 69–73; Nayak
2016: 140). The construction of the Aswan High dam between 1960 and
1971 led to the involuntary displacement of 120,000 people. The Tarbela
Dam on the Indus River launched in 1974 displaced about 96,000 people
in Pakistan. The construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze
River launched in 1994 displaced 1.26 million people in China
(Termenski 2013: 47–68).2 Similarly, the construction of the Kaptai Dam
in Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) in the year 1962 displaced about
100,000 people from their homeland. It not only brought huge
Nayak 201
impoverishment risks for the displaced but the repercussion of such
displacement led to armed conflicts and rebellion too. Noticing the
severity of such a brutal episode of displacement, this article has taken a
case study of involuntary displacement caused by the Kaptai Dam which
has questioned the issue of human security of the displaced people. The
study shows that although the Kaptai Dam fulfilled certain indices of
developmental objectives it purported for but adversely, it too has
brought a broad range of human insecurities like economic insecurity,
food insecurity, health insecurity, environmental insecurity, community
insecurity, personal insecurity, and political insecurity.
At first, this article has linked the issue of involuntary displacement
with the concept of human security and its different dimensions by citing
various examples taken from a number of countries. Second, it describes
the meaning of human security, its characteristics, and different
dimensions. Third, it has explained the nature and character of
development-induced displacement in Bangladesh, its triggering factors
and the resettlement and rehabilitation policy of the Government of
Bangladesh for the displaced. Fourth, it has described the involuntary
displacement caused by the Kaptai Dam of Bangladesh and how it
created a number of impoverishment risks and human insecurities for the
displaced, and many of them crossed the border and have been staying as
a stateless citizen in northeastern states of India. Fifth, it has described
the policies of the Government of Bangladesh with regard to the
compensation, resettlement, and rehabilitation for the displaced people
and how its failure in implementation has led to arms conflicts and
insurgency in the state. Sixth, it describes how the invocation of
underdevelopment and national security justified the militarization of
the region by the Government of Bangladesh, which caused a number of
human rights violations and religious persecutions and completely
Islamized the region. Seventh, it describes that although a Peace Accord
was signed between the Government of Bangladesh and the insurgent
groups in the year 1997, human insecurity still prevails in the region on
account of justified continuing presence of military by the Government
of Bangladesh in the context of the rift among the displaced people over
the terms and conditions of the accord. Eighth, the paper in the conclusion
suggested some probable measures, by which involuntary displacement
of the Kaptai Dam could have been minimized to a great extent and the
problem of human insecurities would not have arisen. In the wake of
market economic reform and the rising number of involuntary
displacement, this article has given suggestion to researchers to apply

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