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Current Trends in Science and Technology

an Open Access Publication ISSN: 0976-9730 | 0976-9498

Social Science

Documents and Life Histories: The Family Card and The Rehabilitation of Tamil ‘Repatriates’ to India, C 1940-1980

Dr. Shyni Danial
Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU, New Delhi.
Online First: December 27, 2017
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Abstract

This paper engages with the repatriation and rehabilitation in India of stateless ‘estate Tamils’ C 1940-1980. I examine the way in which estate documents, designed initially to immobilise Tamils in Sri Lankan plantations, had to be reworked to bring them out of this space and to replant them in a new location. Tamils landed up at Dhanushkodi holding documents which would now be scrutinised for a variety of different purposes. The process of repatriation generated a particular document called the ‘family card’ meant to act as a medium of communication between state and repatriates and to make them pliable to the rehabilitation project. However, the card also came to constitute the medium through which repatriates struggled to expand their rehabilitation packages in India. I examine the complex way in which the family card regulated the affairs of those listed on it. For instance, in the Kerala rubber plantation chosen for rehabilitation, each family card ensured a three-room set in row houses, irrespective of household size. Around this skeletal framework, additional rooms, shed and small shops have proliferated in an entirely unregulated way. Conflicts are visible in employment opportunities too.  The entitlements linked to the entry of the name of the family card expanded and came to constitute a valuable form of property right. This led to family conflicts over claims to a registration number in the card. The paper is drawn from a variety of sources including unpublished official documents, interviews with the repatriates in rehabilitation site, photographs and a spectrum of identity documents.

  Submitted
Dec 27, 2017
Published
Dec 27, 2017
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