Introduction – On Anthropology of Security
The current generation of information warfare has had a tremendous effect on intra-national and international security. It is no longer mere barbed wires and men in uniforms wielding guns and tanks. Technological advancements used in abundance by nation states for surveillance, criminal investigations and protection of public and private spaces, have given new meaning to the concept of security. Hence, in the introduction to the book The Anthropology of Security – Perspectives from Frontline Policing, Counter – Terrorism and Border Control (2014), it says,
“…depending on the breadth of one’s definition, security may refer to everything from war to structural violence, from cutting-edge technology to barbed wire fences. Today, security is everywhere. Today, the concept of security is fashionable yet elusive, elastic yet operational.” (Maguire, Froist, Zurawski, 2014: 1)
Before going further, a brief acquaintance with the classical theory behind security shall give us a better idea of the discourse. The concept of security is as old as the concepts of nation and states. Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan finds security as a basic function of the state. To get protection from certain natural threats to mankind, people came together, giving up some of their freedom, under a single, powerful, sovereign authority. Fear – of surroundings, of extinction, of known and unknown threats – was the driving force for the formation of state as a political collectivity with shared goals. Hobbes did recognize the subjectivity of fears and the state’s responsibility or discretion of choosing collective fears of the community that it would guard them against. The fear dominant in public is often taken up by the state for action. Hobbes found fear also to be the creator of the “collective moral ethos” of people under the state. A state’s successful authority and control according to Hobbes, depended on its ability to define this moral ethos. The assumption is that the state, a political collective of people, works in the best interest of these people. (Goldstein, 2010: 490)
Scholars like Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu differed from Hobbesian conception of the absolutist state and gave the concept of liberal state but again, fear was the basis of such a state. It was maintained by these philosophers that the fear of despotic rule will make people opt for a more liberal state in which there would be mediation between individuals and organizations in a system of political competition. This they found to be a more progressive state which allowed more space for individual freedom. For Montesquieu fear of political absolutism was greater than fear of threat from outside. The next school of thought on the matter came from Marx who maintained that the state in the capitalist society derives its power from conflict in the competition of private property and individual wealth. For Marx, it was alienation which required the security of the state. (Goldstein, 2010: 491)
In the contemporary age, security is not natural response to natural stimuli. Neither is security confined at the level of the state. There exist bodies like the UN which have contributed to world peace keeping and security. We have these forums so that nation states can discuss their interests which need to be secured and negotiations are forged at a global level. Security is determined by notions of threats, risks and insecurities. From policing to national and international defense deployments, security is a result of an intricate nexus between historical, political, socio-economic and material conditions of a society. Every nation has its own definitions and guidelines for internal security. For example the national policy on security of the Dutch lays emphasis on “vital interests” while defining security and these range from economic to ecological. The definition keeps expanding in the contemporary times in keeping with different events of national and international significance. (Maguire et. al. 2014) Scholars of anthropology of security have always viewed security as a discourse and a practice which often stem from the conditions discussed above and cultural ideas about risks and threats. Daniel Goldstein finds anthropology apt as the discipline to discuss the concept of security due to its ability to study in depth local contexts and locate its position in the global discourse. This ability of anthropology to transcend the broad global definitions of security has implications on policies which affect millions. Ethnographic research on criminalization, construction of fear, securitization of spaces, etc. have provided insights which can be incorporated into a theory of security. Goldstein devises,
“…a broader comparative ethnography of security, one that would place security as the center of global society and its contemporary problematics, revealing the important ways in which “security” in its many forms is operative in daily lives and communities of people with whom anthropologists work.” (Goldstein, 2010: 488)
Defining security needs discussions on that which needs to be secured and that from which the security is needed. In the post modern, neoliberal scenario, security and the need for it goes beyond the realm of nation states. It is in this framework that a discussion of the social context of cross border migration and its implications on security can be discussed. The following section discusses the post 9/11 conception and process of securitization and its relevance and implications in studying the phenomenon of cross border migration.
Securitization in the context of Migration
On September 11, 2001, the USA was shaken awake to a reality it thought only existed in less powerful developing world. The attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were symbolic. This was not just a major breach in the security of the most powerful nation in the world but also a statement of resentment. As Goldstein notes, this was an attack on the nation’s philosophical and economic foundations. 9/11 ushered in the era of the “global war on terror” waged by USA and its allies in the Middle East. Goldstein writes,
“…the world had entered a kind of “security moment”, a new phase of global history characterized by increased surveillance of potential security threats, expansive government powers to investigate security breaches, armed intervention in places abroad that supposedly fostered and restrictions on individual freedoms in the name of protecting personal and national security.” (Goldstein, 2010: 487)
The most discussed aspect of security by scholars and activists alike is its impingement on individual rights of freedom, liberty, movement and privacy. In the very recently held National Convention on Digital India, by the Department of Sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia, Law and Poverty expert Usha Ramanathan criticized the UIDAI’s Adhar Card initiative due to its unethical and ineffective use of biometrics as a form of identification and surveillance. Her close association with those at the helm of affairs in the unique identification drive has highlighted the fact that the nature and conditions of India’s population makes biometrics a challenge. This can have serious consequences for an individual whose biometric record has errors. She stated that the reason it is still used is because of the motive of converging all demographic and personal data of citizens into a single number identifiable anywhere across the country. If this biometric information becomes requisite to avail every last service that the state provides, it will systematically exclude a lot of people whose biometric data has countered errors. The more problematic part according to Ramanathan is the idea of ownership of this vital data. The UIDAI will own and maintain all the information that is collected for Adhar. Loopholes in laws to protect individual freedom and privacy in India make this a dangerous proposition.
Ramanathan’s arguments on technology and surveillance for internal security bring us to the age old question of “us and them”. Internal surveillance is very much a way of monitoring trends and shifts in demography. Surveillance technologies have successfully maintained the distinction between citizens and non citizens through the process of identification. This has transcended national territories and the result has been things like Interpol interventions, airport detentions, etc.
Security has been in use as a means of exclusion and seclusion at several places. Immigration policies of the powerful first world countries are often very stringent. They have become more so ever since 9/11 which has contributed to modern stereotyping of threat categories. Reiterating his experiences from his fieldwork on deported foreign nationals and foreign national prisoners Ines Hassleberg writes,
“During the past decades, immigration policies have been refined to broaden eligibility for deportation and allow easier removal of the unwanted foreign nationals. Deportation is today a normalized and distinct form of state power.” (Hassleberg in Maguire et. al. 2014: 139)
He goes on to state that deportation is justified by authorities on the grounds of public anxiety over migrants taking up their spaces, jobs and sense of security. He shows how the threat of the immigrant comes from “a climate of politicized suspicion of asylum seekers.” (142). This constructed fear of refugees then gets transmitted to the public conscience and has eventually seen to get aggravated due to incidents like London Bombings of 2005. The mass release of foreign national prisoners without deportation in 2006 in UK, had led to serious anxieties and fears of more terrorist attacks among the public. This led to major changes in British policies of deportation. This is a classic example of how the underlying prejudices (often racial) can be used to construct public fears which can also motivate changes in public policies. The prejudices can be found in the constant reframing of policies leading to a criminalization of immigration. They can be found in differential treatment of foreign offenders and British prisoners in terms of reluctance to release even after all the rules and paperwork is up to the mark or constant surveillance after release. Finally, the prejudice shows in the everyday experiences of immigrants who carry with them a sense of injustice of not being treated as full citizens even after being given citizenship. The surveillance and vigilance on them means that there’s always the threat of arrest, detention or even expulsion from the country. The consequences of even minor offences can be severe for them in such a situation. (Hassleberg in Maguire et. al. 2014: 142, 143)
At this point, it is important to see why immigration poses a threat. It is a known fact that in-migration can affect existing social demography of a place. In such a scenario, countries with more homogeneous populations have to juggle between interests of those citizens who have always been there and that of those who seek asylum. The asylum seekers, evicted or forced to move out of their own land, are posed with problems of proving their non criminal backgrounds and also the question of their level of allegiance to the new state arises. The current scenario – people are fleeing Syria, Palestine, Iraq and several such war zones; with powerful Islamic fundamentalists on killing and subjugating spree and its powerful countering forces indiscriminately razing cities to rubble due to inefficiency of combing operations; migration has never been a bigger challenge in the global politico-economic scenario. The pressure on the nation state borders due to this is insurmountable and hence we hear cases of inefficiency and state sanctioned violence in border areas where military rules apply.
Borders to EU states, for refugees, are gateways to escape war zones and found a better life ahead for themselves. However, as Jutta Lauth Bacas (2014) notes, the reception of these people at the borders is not so rosy. Instead of treating them as people who need support and aid, the authorities treat them as illegal immigrants or potential security threats. Bacas’ study is based on the boat migrants on the Greek Island of Lesbos in the Mediterranean Sea. The migration from Turkey to Greece is a highly guarded affair and requires several forms of authentication while it is easier to go to Turkey from Greece. The Island of Lesbos faces the problem of undocumented immigrants in large numbers as it’s a sea route which can often make for easier passages in the dead of the night. The island of Lesbos is the main entrance route for unauthorized immigrants who usually have made long journeys from faraway places before reaching there. The first stop after reaching Lesbos for illegal immigrants is a mobile barrack with specialized officials for screening. Most of these people face varying levels of administrative detention, ranging from harassment, imprisonment to physical assault. From her experiences of participant observation, she notes that this detention is meted out irrespective of age, physical or mental conditions and gender of the immigrant. This practice of administrative detention has been criticized by UNHCR as unsystematic and should constitute as a last resort. However, it continues to be a regular perpetration of violence in the name of securitization.
Bacas calls the Island of Lesbos a grey zone of illegality and it indeed is so. The makeshift settlements are poorly constructed and deteriorating tarpaulin tents housing more people than they are meant for. Hygiene and sanitation, food resources or the basic conditions of human existence are in limited availability despite reforms in detention policies and volunteer initiatives from NGOs and UN. (Bacas in Maguire et. al. 2014)
Conclusion- Securitization as an Inescapable Fact
The discussion so far has shown the contexts of securitization by way of critical examination of the very need for security of people. However, are the concerns of nation states with respect to immigration completely baseless? Is securitization really much ado about nothing? In order to answer this, we need to go back to the basics and see things at a more practical level. In order to answer this, the perspective of security on its own must be looked at independent of ethnographic scrutiny, in order to grasp the full story of the needs and implications of securitizations with respect to migration. When Franz J Schuurman spoke of a great impasse in development studies, he mourned the loss of operational and measurable concepts in development studies, due to an increasing disciplinary fascination with diversity and unique case scenarios, consonant with the rise of post structuralism. The constructivist argument that all concepts and hence, knowledge derived from said concepts were socially constructed and thus had no intrinsic reality, has perhaps carried over to how the problems of migration and securitization are seen. Another related aspect of ‘critical’ views of securitization, relate to a theoretical undermining of the primacy of the nation state . The state’s authority is seen as being undermined from above, by ideas of internationalism and global forces, and from below by local identities which may sometimes be seen as suppressed nationalities within the nation-state.
However, nation states continue to remain the primary political units in the international system, and to understand the security problem that migration poses, it is essential to take a more rudimentary view of security as state security. In the realm of security studies proper, the Hobbesean influence is still pivotal in viewing security as the preservation of ‘national interest’ (itself a very contested idea).
Migration may pose severe threats to ‘national interest’. At its core, this relates to problems of insufficient integration, and differential value systems. Benedict Anderson sees the nation as an imagined political community ,sovereign and limited. The idea of community presupposes common identities, along with common value systems, and shared traits. The idea of a sovereign relates to the prerogative of nationals to decide state policy. A nation is limited in that it is territorially defined, and not coterminous with mankind as a whole. In this, context nation national identity is by definition a question of who belongs, and who doesn’t.
The influx of large number of immigrants, across national boundaries, grafts onto local society, a populace that is alien or an ‘other’ in many senses of the word. Lacking the common minimal national ethos, as well as other cultural markers such as ethnicity or faith on which the membership of the host community is implicitly or explicitly predicated, there arises the two fold threat of the migrants themselves indulging in actions against the host society, as also local communities going on a war path as their own predominance is challenged and effaced.
The long standing Bangladeshi immigrant crisis in India provides an apt illustration of both cases, where security risks are posed to the state as well as the nation in general. An Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis seminar on Illegal Bangladeshi Migration to India: Impact on Internal Security noted:
“In April, 2005 a youth organization,Chiring Chapori Yuva Mancha began a campaign against the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Illegal Bangladeshi Migrants are also threat to language and culture of Assam. ULFA which arose as a protest against Bangladeshis lost credibility only when its leaders took shelter in Bangladesh after the Bhutanese operation against the group in December 2003. Arrest of Bangladeshi national S. M. Alam in January 2008 by Assam Police revealed ISI’s plan to turn northeast into a volatile region. The migrants have also spread into other places like Dimapur and Kohima. The illegal migrants are not involved into terrorism in a big way, but involved in gun running, fake currency rackets and drug running.”
Similar concerns have come to the fore in terms of Syrian migration into the EU. Firstly, analysts have warned how sleeper cells of the ISIS could be active among such refugees. Secondly, the culture clash that has ensued is visible on a day to day basis in countries like Germany where large scale rioting and sexual assault of over 1000 German women by ‘refugees’ ensued on new year’s eve. The threat of violence continues to force changes to the way of life of a people, as seen by the recent decision in Germany to ban Sausages in school canteens so as to avoid immigrant violence. Empirical evidence available at the current times, would warn against underplaying the possibility of importation of external sectarian or religious conflict.
When we look at the case of West Bengal, more strategic threats begin to emerge.
“Growing population pressure in Bangladesh acts as a push factor whereas growing Indian economy, relatively less pressure on land and weak state resistance act as pull factor. Islamic fundamentalist extremist groups are growing in Bangladesh and they are able to expand their activities in West Bengal as well. Some of such organistaions are Jamait-e-Islami-e-Hind, Jamait-Ahle-Hadis, Students Islamic Organization (SIO), Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Tabligh-e-Jamat. Four of them are most active. Meetings have taken place between Jamaat-e-Islami and West Bengal based radical Muslim organizations and it is believed that ISI is behind them. There has been a growth of unauthorized, illegal madrassas all over West Bengal particularly along the Bangladesh border. They are also using Kolkota and Agartala as bases being close to the border and people from both sides speak the same language. There are also groups which are directly involved in subversive activities such as HUJI.” (IDSA)
Siliguri town acts as gateway to Guwahati, Gangtok and Kishengunj and also shares the border with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Important highways, railways tracks, vital installations such as the airfields of Bagdogra and Hashimara and oil pipelines are located here. Increase in Muslim population in Siliguri and adjoining areas has grown at an astonishing 150% in the past seven years. There are villages in and around Siliguri which have curious population mix and often act as heaven for ISI operatives. The villages have some 2,000 Pashto and Baloch settlers from Afghanistan along with 6,000 Iraninas. The increased activity of the ISI has endangered the security of the Siliguri corridor. ISI attempted sabotage in 1999 following a bomb blast at New Jalpaiguri Station.
To take the liberty of belabouring the point further, this is the veritable ‘chicken’s neck’ linking mainland India to the North east:The XXXIII Corps area of responsibility. And influx of a population with an increasing propensity for Jihad poses critical risks on the strategic plane. A fraction of such available sub conventional reserves converted into strategic deep state assets by unfriendly external goverments created key threats to infrastructure in peacetime, and far graver threats in event of an Indo-China war especially in light of the large scale expansion of the Bangladeshi armed forces and increasing ties and interoperability of the same with the PLA. The 33 Corps as it is, has very little fighting depth due to the nature of the terrain. More recent planned deployments of a Bangladeshi battery of radar guided SAMs, north of Rangpur, creates challenges in terms of competing attempts to exert ‘influence’ over this key strategic strip in peace as in war. It would then seem prudent to argue that the presence of possible, rather probable, radical islamist manpower and networks, when coupled with possible changes in political and diplomatic dispensations in the region pose a clear and credible threat to the long term securitization of national territorial integrity.
One a more strategic level, what modern anthropological thought has been wantonly incompetent at recognizing is the drastically changed nature of warfare. Warfare is no longer purely a matter of armies assembled on the field, but rather a question of creating a strategic imbalance by means including non military means. The realm for fourth generation warfare post the 1990s, involving conflict through non state actors and the rapidly evolving understanding of fifth generation warfare, where strategic asymmetry between parties is sought to be created using information warfare (creating of subconscious narratives through media and academia),elements of the state and civil society ,as well as demographic aggression , creating and exploiting faultlines in society for supranational ideological and security interests lay bare a field where concerns of state security aren’t the a simple law and order question, but rather constitute the state as site whereby contesting and diverse interests are mobilized and operationalised. In the Indian case, this can be seen in terms of local politicians and bureaucrats turning a blind eye to illegal immigration due to economic and political benefits that may accrue to them. The struggle of ethnic assamese,bodos or tripuri people and the insurgencies and losses to life and property that these have caused, represent a struggle to protect a way of life from the vast swarms of immigrants thus facilitated. Furthermore foreign intelligence organizations wage a form of dissimilar warfare by utilizing sectarian passions to further their ultimate ends of ‘bleeding india by a thousand cuts’. The state and the civil society here is not merely a simple entity grafted onto the body politic, but rather a fracture site whereby multiple interests act and compete in cloak and dagger games. The Hobbesean view of the state as engendering a state of order as opposed to a state of chaos,while simplified, still remains pivotal. The selection,classification and socialization of chosen threats into the populace remains vital for the preservation of security in the given context. In sofar as the state is subservient to the larger nation it claims to represent, there appears nothing unnatural or alarming about its cautiousness in terms of the potential. It may be argued that anti-immigrant reactions are really natural, and in some ways fundamental to who we are as. While women and children may be accommodated more willingly, military aged men perceived as a greater threat provide a different case altogether.
In conclusion then, it may be fruitful to return to Benedict Anderson’s understanding of nations. Securitization against migration, remains not merely a question of law and order, but a question of sovereignity, of the right to self determination i.e. the ability of a national community to preserve its way of life and chart its destiny in consonance with such principles ,as well as the right to define who belongs with reference to various ‘others’. As such, while critical anthropological perspectives may have been able to shed light on the intertwined processes on securitization and migration from various viewpoints, they have had little use in the practical sense. Indeed they have often contributed indirectly, where academics has been mated to activism, in creating situations where further threats to security abound.