A female neighbour in whose country? The untold story of Afia Begum and the sari squad

Chatterjee, Arup K. (2022) A female neighbour in whose country? The untold story of Afia Begum and the sari squad. Lectora, 28. pp. 255-271. ISSN 1136-5781


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This paper is one of the first attempts to reconstruct the story of Afia Begum, wife —and later widow— of Abdul Hamid (a Bangladeshi immigrant in Thatcherite London), whose entry was cleared by the British Home Office in 1982, months before her husband died tragically in a fire in East London. Upon her arrival in the United Kingdom, Afia was told that her grant to stay in the country was no longer valid owing to the death of her husband; that she was now an illegal immigrant in Britain. In the process of the reconstruction, I also revisit the untold story of the Sari Squad, a group of Asian women who fought valiantly, though peacefully, to stop Afia’s deportation. Although Afia was deported on May 8, 1984, her case was heard in the European Court of Human Rights and debated in the European Parliament; in both forums, the highhandedness of the British Home Office was fiercely critiqued. By way of conclusion, I lay out a hermeneutic in which to read Afia’s story, in a literary sense, offering a skeptical stance to reading it in binary terms of success-defeat/victimization-survival of a female foreigner battling a racist state. In doing so, I draw upon Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “connection between nationalism and reproductive heteronormativity”, to argue that the case of Afia’s deportation suggests that her nationality can only be —tragically— established by determining the citizenship of her husband; this ends up doubly othering and transcendentalizing her nationality, reducing her to her sociobiological reproductive heteronormativity, impregnated with the cryptic trace of her husband’s ghost which practically became the summum bonum of her deprived statehood.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Afia Begum | Sari Squad | Jeremy Corbyn | David Waddington | Harry Cohen | London | Race Relations
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Social Sciences (General)
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Amees Mohammad
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2022 04:48
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2022 04:48
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1344/Lectora2022.28.14.
URI: https://pure.jgu.edu.in/id/eprint/4740


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