An Unfinished Story of Enforcing Citizenship Rights

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Book Title: Statelessness and Citizenship

Editor(s): Blitz, K. Brad; Lynch, Maureen

Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing

ISBN (hard cover): 9781849800679

Section: Chapter 7

Section Title: The Urdu-speakers of Bangladesh : An Unfinished Story of Enforcing Citizenship Rights

Author(s): Southwick, Katherine

Number of pages: 27


7. The Urdu-speakers of Bangladesh : an unfinished story of enforcing citizenship rights Katherine Southwick

Source: © Greg Constantine 2010.

Figure 7.1 Overcrowding plagues every camp. Living conditions are cramped and pose safety and health problems as families, some as large as 15, live in 8 x 10 feet living spaces. In a room decorated with old newspapers glued to the walls, a family of seven lives and works in Kurmi Tola Camp in Dhaka .

Members of the Urdu-speaking minority in Bangladesh have always had a right to citizenship under national law, but the challenge has come from enforcing that right and the benefits that attach to it. Bangladeshi courts have recognized Urdu-speakers as citizens in successive cases

115 �116 Statelessness and citizenship

over the years. However, since the country gained independence from

Pakistan  in 1971, the state has failed to acknowledge them as citizens

on a broad political and administrative level. This protracted disconnect between law and policy has made the group's status uncertain, effectively stateless. For nearly four decades, the unwillingness of either government, Bangladeshi or Pakistani , to formally recognize this community as citi- zens has rendered an estimated 160 000­500 000 people vulnerable to extreme poverty and without equal access to education, health services and livelihoods. Time, however, as well as the accretion of case law, has confirmed this group's citizenship. Since the most recent 2008 High Court deci- sion ordering government agencies to register individuals to vote and to issue national ...